THE TRIBUNE INTERVIEW

Coordinated attack, elite don't want me at helm: Punjab CM Charanjit Channi

CM Charanjit Channi, in an interview with Sanjeev Singh Bariana and Rajmeet Singh, claimed that the Aam Aadmi Party and Shiromani Akali Dal had joined hands with the BJP with the aim to keep him out of power. “The mood of the people has changed since I took over 111 days ago. This has unnerved our rivals, who have launched a coordinated attack,” he said. Excerpts:

Charanjit Singh Channi, Chief Minister, Punjab

You are being accused of illegal sand mining. What do you have to say in your defence?

They (Opposition parties) all have united against me, be it Aam Aadmi Party’s Arvind Kejriwal or Shiromani Akali Dal’s Bikram Singh Majithia. They are being openly supported by the BJP. They don’t see any rival, except Channi, and want to finish me of politically. Enforcement Directorate (ED) raids are part of a big plan, which has been tried elsewhere earlier. Wherever the Centre is scared of the Opposition, raids happen. It was evident in West Bengal, Maharashtra and even Tamil Nadu. I am not connected with the illegal sand mining even remotely. They are targeting me and my family because they see our government coming back to power. All attempts are being made to corner me. I am prepared for the fight. People will help me. I am being victimised as the elite class does not want a common man at the helm. It is a coordinated attack on me.

Also read: AAP seeks time from Punjab Governor on illegal mining issue

Illegal mining: No clean chit to anyone yet, says Navjot Sidhu


Nothing to do with illegal sand mining

ED raids have a pattern. These were also carried out in West Bengal, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. I have nothing to do with illegal sand mining. They are targeting me and my family because they see our party returning to power.

Why will Opposition parties collude against you?

They all are having sleepless nights over Channi. Adjustments are being made even while picking candidates. Their lists of candidates prove that. They have understood that they cannot win separately, so they have joined hands. They are strategically facilitating one another in attacking me. But people of Punjab are intelligent and can see through their game plan. Results will show that. In several constituencies, SAD and AAP workers are helping each other only to keep Congress and Channi out. My party is firmly standing by me.

Ready for the fight

I am being victimised as the elite don’t want a common man like me at the helm. I’m ready for the fight. CS Channi, CM, Punjab

What do you have to say about pictures being circulated linking your name with illegal sand mining?

Let them say what they want. Pictures don’t prove anything. Leaders like Kejriwal, in the past, have made wild allegations against Arun Jaitley, Nitin Gadkari and Bikram Singh Majithia. After the elections, he had to apologise to all of them. It will be the same in our case. I have in fact brought down the rates of sand prices at the khuds where it was sold at Rs 22 per square foot. It is now available for Rs 5 per square foot.

But it is not available at Rs 5 per square foot to the common man.

I am talking about the price at the source in the khuds, and you are talking about the price that consumers pay. This is high because of several factors, including charges paid to transporters. I had instructed Deputy Commissioners to pass on the benefit to consumers well before the elections were announced.

Has announcement of CM face been delayed because of the sand mining controversy?

Last time, the CM face was announced 15 days before the elections. This time we still have 25 days. There is no relation between the sand mining controversy and naming of the chief ministerial candidate. This will be decided by the high command.

Has ban on physical rallies impacted the poll campaign?

Yesterday, I had gone to Balachaur. Thousands of people came at the grain market. Hands folded, I told them that I could not address a large gathering.

What are the achievements you are highlighting?

We are projecting the work done by our government in 111 days. Electricity and water charges of consumers have been cut. So have petrol (by Rs 10/litre) and diesel (by Rs 5/ litre). We carried out at least 150 notifications of the work done. People know that we can transform Punjab.

The party’s ‘one family, one ticket’ norm has triggered dissent. Your comment.

The ‘one family, one ticket’ norm is the party’s decision and we all respect it. At the same time, I must admit that the decision may affect victory chances at some seats, including Batala.

What does Punjab need the most at this juncture?

Punjab needs a good administrator and a leader who is accessible. Former CM Capt Amarinder Singh closed shop at 4 pm. Another leader shuts shop at 6 pm. There is a difference between performing on stage and running a state. Bhagwant Mann swore on his mother’s name that he would give up liquor and Capt Amarinder swore by Gutka Sahib that he would change the face of Punjab, but failed.

Do you see Bhagwant Mann as a threat?

Bhagwant Mann is no threat at all. He is a dummy CM face. He does not have the requisite experience and capability whereas I have set a new benchmark for politicians on how to run the government efficiently. I have made officers work hard in the past three months. Sukhbir Badal as CM face does not have even 10 per cent acceptability.

#CharanjitChanni #IllegalMining

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