Chandigarh, January 29
SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal has said that Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu and the police officers who had “conspired to falsely implicate” Bikram Singh Majithia, besides other Akali workers during the Congress government, will have to pay back, including dismissal from service, when the SAD returned to power.
Badal spoke to Tribune correspondents Sanjeev Singh Bariana and Jupinderjit Singh.
From the scenario of a three-cornered election contest in Punjab last time, it is five-cornered now. Will it not be confusing for the voters?
This is a new phenomenon. People are definitely confused. A person today joins a new party and within days shifts to another.
After announcing a 13-point development programme last August, the SAD seems to be forgetting public issues and once again is raking up the issue of drugs after the name of Bikram Majithia had cropped up. Where have the issues concerning public welfare gone?
Congress in the last five years has done nothing except rake up the issues of drugs and sacrilege. They want to hide their failure. They don’t mention that they promised ‘ghar ghar naukri’ or mobile phones or the debt waiver to farmers and delivered nothing. They want to divert public attention. People know that they are lying. We have always kept welfare of people as our top priority. We need to talk on the Majithia issue because this is a false case. We have to defend him because he is innocent. In routine, we engage with our people to know what they want. We work for their welfare.
Why is SAD making Majithia contest from two seats, especially from the seat of Navjot Sidhu in Amritsar East?
Navjot Sidhu has gone overboard in his arrogance. He thinks he is the biggest. He has been accusing Majithia of wrongdoings without an iota of truth. So we decided that we will fight him. Let people of his constituency decide who is right.
What is wrong in registering the case against Majithia in wake of serious allegations?
Registering a false case is a crime. The government changed two DGPs and two Bureau of Investigation chiefs. They ignored written orders. I am not talking about Bikram’s case alone. There are a number of cases in which the innocent have been framed. In Punjab, the Congress leadership has ruined the lives of many common people by registering false cases.
So Sidhu will have to pay if you return to power?
Obviously, we will have a commission of inquiry and the police officers who were part of the conspiracy against Majithia would face dismissal from service. We have to set an example. Unless that happens, the system will continue to rot. We will dismiss all found guilty, be it 10 or 20 or 30 or 100 or even 200. We will ensure nobody registers a false case in future.
Chief Minister Charanjit Channi and Home Minister Sukhjinder Randhawa also made accusations against Majithia. But you have chosen to field Majithia only against Sidhu.
Channi is just a pawn. He made noise only to make his own presence felt when he saw someone else was gaining prominence. Sidhu has been boasting that he directed the police to register the case. He also said that he was telling the CM to do that.
Who would you prefer to see as the CM face of the Congress - Sidhu or Channi?
It does not make a difference to us. We will beat both. They are number three in the race at the moment. Congress will not be able to cross 15 seats. In fact, the number 2 position is a close fight between AAP and Congress. The number for both will be anywhere between 10 and 15 seats. AAP has no credibility now. They have projected Bhagwant Mann as the CM face but actually the image is a mirage. Look at the new posters. Kejriwal is omnipresent. Why Kejriwal? I have never seen Congress saying ‘Rahul Gandhi ko mauka do’. Bhagwant Mann is the dummy face and I can give you in writing that if by chance they get a majority, Kejriwal will organise another bogus voting to get himself in the CM chair.
Parties are still promising freebies to their voters. You also promised 400 units of free power. Don’t you think that the state is already in a bad financial situation?
Don’t look at debt as a burden. Compare debt with GDP of the state. Look at the huge debt Ambani has. But he commands the most powerful company. Debt is used for business and even to expand. Using debt in infrastructure and economy gives a financial boost and increases the revenue. In one example, I say that tapping solar power is the way ahead. I have a plan to set up a 15,000 MW solar plant which will make us self-sufficient. We will be able to pay off the entire power debt within a few years.
The SAD is said to be the original party of the farmers. During the year-long farmer protests it seemed that a sizeable number of farmers don’t trust you any longer. What do you say?
This category of protesters are leftist labour unions, not farmers. Most of them are associated with the CPI and CPM. These parties were controlling the agitation. These unions will not make any difference. Our cadre consists of real farmers. They are with us.
A large number of private institutes in the field of education in the state have failed to live up to expectations. Colleges are empty and students are shifting abroad in big numbers. How do you see the situation and what do you see in future?
Punjabis by nature cannot be tied down. They always move to greener pastures. It is sad that many of them are doing nothing more than mopping floors abroad. We will educate them before they go so that they are better placed. We have envisaged a Student Card Scheme. Our kids will be able to study anywhere they want in the world. They will be given an interest-free loan. Working out the merit of the case, the state will ensure the movement of all the deserving cases. Last time we worked on improving the roads and the power sector and the results on ground show that we were successful. This time we will work on improving education and health sectors.
What is your reaction to different poll survey reports on Punjab elections which don’t place SAD comfortably?
These are paid surveys. The Delhi government funds are being used for elections of Punjab by the AAP to manage poll surveys. The party is paying channels to carry advertisements asking them to do surveys in their favour in return. Last time they did the same. One survey had given them 100 seats and they got only about 20.
One of the public perceptions doing the rounds is that no party will get a majority in Punjab. There will be possible tie-ups among them after elections. One perception holds that SAD will tie up with the BJP.
The BJP will get zero seats so why would we tie-up with zero. They might at best get one or two. Last time, it was three-cornered so people thought there would be a hung assembly. The Congress won with a big majority. This time, with five-sided contest we are very sure it will not be a hung assembly. We will win because our workers are committed.
Are these elections different from the earlier ones?
This time the elections are very frustrating. We are not meeting people. There is no election mood. Neither people nor politicians are enjoying it.
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