THE TRIBUNE INTERVIEW

Channi weak CM, state needs visionary leader: Sukhbir Singh Badal

Sukhbir Singh Badal, president, Shiromani Akali Dal

Terming Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi’s “aam aadmi” outreach nothing more than “photo op” ahead of the 2022 Punjab Assembly elections, the Shiromani Akali Dal president in conversation with Sanjeev Singh Bariana and Jupinderjit Singh lists the work carried out by the Akali government from 2007 to 2017, including building the state-of-the-art highways, making the state power surplus, increasing air connectivity and initiating social security measures, for the citizens.

CM Channi seems to be preparing a roadmap for the state’s growth. Isn’t he proving to be an “aam aadmi” who understands the voters’ pulse?

It’s all theatrics. What kind of an “aam aadmi” is he? He sleeps in an air-conditioned house and lives a life of luxury. I can say with full responsibility that he is one of the main faces behind the land mafia in the state. We have evidence to support Channi is the man behind a sizeable number of constructions in Kharar, Morinda and nearby areas. Ludhiana industrialists are being asked to pay up in the name of party funds, which are supposedly meant for the Congress high command in Delhi. A team of camerapersons accompanies him wherever he goes. The whole exercise is to project him as an “aam aadmi”. Only SAD patron Parkash Singh Badal can feel the pulse of the masses.

The PPA story is another big fraud being played by the Congress government only to score political brownie points. The Assembly is not even authorised to withdraw these PPAs... If these were faulty, why didn’t the government register cases against those involved in the exercise, including officers?

Not even a single bus we own is plying illegally. We have never defaulted on tax payment. There is a certain issue pending with the tax department over the payment during the pandemic period because our carrying capacity was halved and even work days got reduced.

Don’t you think people can relate to a Chief Minister who is accessible?

How do his acts translate into effective administration? His tall promises on giving jobs can’t happen without reforms. If by any remote chance Channi wins, he will simply say his government’s coffers are empty. He is just trying to cover up for the failures of the Congress government by blaming his predecessor Capt Amarinder Singh. Were they not part of the same Cabinet? Where are the culprits involved in the illegal drug trade? Where is ‘ghar ghar naukri’? The party has simply changed the face of the leader to mislead people.

Who do you think is your main opposition in Punjab?

The public response that we have received so far has been encouraging. I have toured 55 of the total 117 constituencies and can say with confidence that people have understood that ours is the only party that can serve the interests of Punjab. The BJP has its control in Delhi, as was evident from the fact that despite facing farmers’ wrath during their outreach, state leaders didn’t speak up against the central leadership. The same way, the Congress is being remote-controlled by Priyanka Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi from Delhi and the state AAP unit is being run by party national convener Arvind Kejriwal, also from Delhi, who wants to start his political innings at the national level from Punjab. Barring certain pockets, the Congress will be the main opposition that the SAD will face in the upcoming elections. Punjab needs a visionary leader, not a “dramebaaz”.

Channi has blamed your government for the faulty power purchase agreements due to which people were forced to pay exorbitant charges.

The PPA story is another big fraud being played by the Congress government only to score political brownie points. The Assembly is not even authorised to withdraw these PPAs. The agreements, in their current form, were initiated by the Manmohan Singh-led Congress government. If the state government was competent, it would have cancelled the PPAs by now. If the agreements were faulty, why didn’t the government register cases against those involved in the exercise, including officers?Only the Central Regulatory Commission can take a decision through the state electricity board.

What is your stand on the farm laws? Did you have to cancel your 100-day outreach programme due to protests?

The Congress was the one that introduced the farm laws. At the time, the BJP had opposed these. Now when the BJP brought in the laws, Congress leaders remained quiet. We broke our alliance with the BJP because we are with farmers. The protests at our rallies are being organised at the behest of political opponents who come in the garb of farmers.

The government has decided to regulate sand prices. What do you have to say?

Check the facts on the ground. Nowhere have the sand prices gone down. How can the prices drop when senior Congress leaders are knee-deep in the money-making swamp? A senior party leader whose name cropped up in connection with illegal sand mining had to quit Capt Amarinder’s Cabinet. He is back in the Channi Cabinet.

The Advocate General appointed by the Channi government had to go and now the fate of the DGP hangs in the balance. What’s your take?

The situation has arisen only because the state has a weak Chief Minister. He is running between the power centres in New Delhi and here to save his job. These are the traits of an obedient follower, not a good leader. The state needs a strong leader.

Transport Minister Raja Warring has initiated action on illegal plying of buses. Some of these are owned by your family.

The Congress and other parties suffer from ‘Badal phobia’. Not even a single bus we own is plying illegally. We have never defaulted on the tax payment. There is a certain issue pending with the tax department over the payment during the pandemic period because our carrying capacity was halved and even work days got reduced. Buses belonging to Congress leaders and supporters are not being touched. Why?

What do you think of the government’s effort towards resolving the sacrilege issue?

The Congress is not sincere at all. If it were so, the culprits would have been caught by now. The party is not interested in getting any justice done. It is using sacrilege as a tool to garner votes.

Arvind Kejriwal has claimed AAP will deliver on its promises in Punjab.

He lies big. He had said he would not enter politics, but became the CM. In Delhi, he says all the pollution comes from Punjab, but here he pretends to be a friend. Many of his own leaders say Kejriwal fancies being the CM of Punjab. Else, why doesn’t he name the CM face for Punjab?

Who is the chief ministerial candidate of your party?

You know the answer.

Tribune Shorts


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