My victory will pave way for Punjab’s political transformation, says former deputy speaker Bir Devinder Singh
Former deputy speaker of Punjab Vidhan Sabha Bir Devinder Singh, 69, is Shiromani Akali Dal (Taksali)’s pick for the Anandpur Sahib constituency. Capt Amarinder Singh’s bete noire, he has already hit the ground and started active campaigning on a confident note. HT spoke to the two-time MLA about his future aspirations.
What future do you see for the newly formed panthic alignment?
In Punjab, politics revolve around the panth, and religion will continue to be a driving force for a long time here. People are turning their back to the Badals-led Shiromani Akali Dal that has eroded Punjab and Sikh religious institutions. After the general elections, we will contest the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) elections, and then the assembly polls in 2022. We are very positive about these elections. We will oust Badals and hand over the control of panthic institutions to the sangat.
Do you feel that the issues of sacrilege and police action on protesters in Bargari and Behbal Kalan will resonate in your constituency?
There’s no doubt about that. Due to the unfortunate incidents in 2015, people’s sentiments were hurt. Badals played a negative role then, and people will react now. My victory will pave the way for big political transformation in Punjab for which a beginning has been already made.
Your campaign is largely focused around the panth. What about aspirations of other religions who are part of the electorate in the constituency?
Our campaign may be getting strength from panthic issues, but after getting elected as MP I will work for people belonging to all communities, castes and religions. I have 50 years of experience in raising people’s voice, and the electorate will definitely feel the difference when I will raise their issues in the Lok Sabha. My party has assigned me to draft the party’s manifesto in which issues concerning the state — debt, agrarian crisis, governance, law and order, and drugs — will be addressed. I will also play a constructive role in greater interfaith understanding.
How do you rate your opponents contesting from Anandpur Sahib?
It is naive to underestimate opponents. I like Congress’ Manish Tewari as a person and SAD’s Prem Singh Chandumajra as a politician. Candidates of other parties are political greenhorns. The contest is between me and Tewari. Currently, I am number two. But after a few weeks of campaigning, I am confident of being the leading contestant.
What challenges do you face as the contestant of a newly formed party?
In any kind of electoral battle, challenges are aplenty. Being a new party, we are in the process of building cadres, and are also facing resource crunch. But the facts that I am a known face and have been raising people’s voice work in my favour. Also, people of Mohali and surrounding areas support me as I represented Kharar as MLA from 2002 to 2007.
What is your proposal for the greater Mohali area, which is part of your parliamentary constituency?
I plan to streamline development in the area. On becoming MP, I will work on including the entire area under the municipal corporation to ensure the development is coordinated. GMADA, the main development agency, was formed due to my efforts as MLA.