Amarinder Singh talks about his “legacy” of fulfilling his 2017 manifesto guarantees, lays out plans for his new celebration, says he believes Rahul, Priyanka Gandhi have grown into their Cong function, and repeats his fears for Punjab safety. This session was moderated by Resident Editor Manraj Grewal Sharma.
MANRAJ GREWAL SHARMA: You have introduced a brand new celebration, Punjab Lok Congress. Is it simply born out of anti-Congressism? What would you name your constitution or philosophy?
A high-power committee will sit down over the subsequent couple of days and determine the broad outlines, which actually would be the manifesto of the celebration. We are very severe, we aren’t going to depart Punjab at sea. We have threats from inside, with out, and it’s for us to do our bit. I don’t know whether or not the Congress goes to be ready to do something the way in which they’re proper now; everyone seems to be pulling everybody to bits. And I don’t belief the (Shiromani) Akali Dal, which has at all times performed ‘double’ on these points… I used to be round through the build-up to terrorism, they usually performed with each side… I believe there’s a place for all of us who really feel Punjab ought to be safe, Punjabis ought to be safe.
MANRAJ GREWAL SHARMA: You mentioned you had been open to a seat-sharing association with the BJP, however the BJP has mentioned it would struggle all of the 117 Assembly constituencies within the state. It mentioned there’s polarisation in Punjab they usually hope to do properly. Are these conflicting alerts?
We will struggle all of the seats with our allies — whether or not in adjustment with the BJP or with Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa (a former Akali Dal chief who has fashioned his personal celebration). When the BJP mentioned it (that it’ll contest all of the seats), I had not left the Congress… I don’t assume anybody can declare that we’re going to win 117 seats… Neither are you able to anticipate a nationwide celebration to say we are going to struggle something lower than 117 seats. They say that, however in addition they know that if we have now alliances — they’re doing it with Dhindsa too — then give-and-take at all times takes place. I additionally mentioned we’re going to goal 117 seats… What I meant was that we are going to struggle with whoever is our electoral companion.
MANRAJ GREWAL SHARMA: As a army historian, you’ve gotten a deep sense of legacy. How will your alliance with the BJP be seen, given its right-wing ideology that you’ve got at all times opposed?
I can’t discuss ideology at a nationwide degree, however in Punjab, we don’t have this kind of enterprise. Punjab believes in Punjabiyat. We are a really liberal society. All of us are collectively — the Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Jains… We are a regional celebration and I’m not wanting past that. I’m what we are able to obtain for Punjab. Don’t overlook, we have now a 600-km border with a hostile nation, and it is extremely vital that we keep good, pleasant relations with all communities.
… I’m right here to be remembered as someone who has achieved an awesome deal. I had two phrases within the authorities: 2002-07 and now. What we have now achieved, I don’t assume any authorities has. We achieved 92% of our manifesto guarantees until I used to be chief minister, and I believe the Congress authorities is carrying on with it. The final time this was finished was by (then Andhra CM) Chandrababu Naidu in 1983, when he achieved 83% of his manifesto guarantees… For occasion, all people in Punjab is roofed by Rs 5 lakh insurance coverage; anyone throughout the Lal Dora land has possession of their home; we run the Basera scheme in city areas… I cleared an entire lot of tasks, conceived at the least three to 4 months in the past. I hope the federal government implements them earlier than the elections.
MANRAJ GREWAL SHARMA: The Congress now accuses you of not doing what was wanted, similar to on the facility buy agreements (PPAs), which have been reworked. CM Charanjit Singh Channi has mentioned on report that you simply had been in cahoots with the Badals.
He can say what he likes… When you need to eliminate someone or one thing, you discover an excuse. All the choices which I took at the moment are being applied. About the PPAs… first, let’s perceive what Punjab requires. This July, the rains had been much less, the dams weren’t full and the facility requirement went as much as one thing like 50,000 megawatts… We have simply two energy models… So, then you need to purchase from the nationwide grid. Punjab can solely transmit 7,000 megawatts… We had been, at the moment, shopping for energy at a really heavy price, nevertheless it fluctuates… You will be shopping for it at Re 1 or at Rs 15… relying on the provision and demand. We rejected Damodar Valley and Bokaro gives of Rs 21 and Rs 19… Last week, the place I’m sitting, we have now had 4 hours of energy cuts already. Industry and farmers want energy… All this stuff you need to consider, you may’t simply take selections emotionally. Yes, all of us determined that the association ought to be renegotiated. Why? Because what the Akali authorities did was completely improper… that even when we don’t ask to purchase your energy, we pays you for it.
MANOJ C G: You have been in politics for almost 5 many years, CM for 2 phrases. Why has no vital Congress chief or MLA or district president joined you? Why are you so remoted?
I’m not remoted, I’ve obtained set-ups now in all of the districts. We are beginning a membership trial. Why is nobody from the Congress becoming a member of me? It’s quite simple — if someone joins me, they sack them… The second any MLA steps out of line, they lower his funds. Therefore, I instructed all of them, ‘Keep sitting, let the Code of Conduct be enforced, then you join (once it is in place, the use of funds is restricted)’. So we’re ready for the Code of Conduct.
MANOJ C G: After you resigned as CM and signalled that you’ll float a brand new celebration, did Sonia Gandhi converse to you, or Rahul or Priyanka? Did they reach out to you?
Mrs Gandhi spoke to me about three or 4 weeks earlier than I supplied to resign. I instructed her I can’t keep it up. She requested me why. I mentioned as a result of Navjot Singh Sidhu is pulling proper, I’m pulling left… She instructed me to remain. Then, one morning, she known as me and instructed me I ought to resign. I mentioned I had supplied you my resignation… She simply mentioned I’m very sorry. I mentioned that’s effective, you don’t must be sorry… They assume I’m able to retire, I don’t assume I’m… I’ve nonetheless obtained a few years of productive life left in me. I’ll struggle however I’ll struggle for my state. I may also struggle the anti-national parts… Look on the weapons which might be coming in, the drones, the bombs… What is the target? What is Pakistan’s intent?… I’ve been by way of the time after Operation Blue Star and terrorist actions, 35,000 Punjabis died. I don’t need one other Punjabi to die. These are the kind of issues which might be going to occur, and these fellows do not know… Submachine weapons have are available in. These incidents had been solely documented throughout June, July and August this final quarter. Drones began coming final yr, by June. Earlier, they might burrow the drones beneath the (border) wires or ship them through rivers, however final June they began air dropping them… As an individual who has devoted my life to the state and to the nation — 10 years in uniform after which as CM — I owe it to them to do what I can for them.
Do you realize what the debt of Punjab is, how a lot these guys are spending? Our GSDP (Gross State Domestic Product) on the time of final evaluation was about Rs 5,35,000 crore. We have already borrowed Rs Rs 4,00,000 crore… Seventy-five per cent of Punjab is in debt… Two months since I left, they’ve spent one other Rs 20,000 crore… Therefore, I need to keep and do what I can.
MANRAJ GREWAL SHARMA: You as soon as mentioned that if Punjab continues to develop paddy, it would face desertification in 25 years, and that we are going to develop kinnow as an alternative. But it appears the realm beneath paddy has solely elevated even beneath your watch.
We began a field-to-fork programme and some pilot tasks in Ropar district with Reliance. It would have arrange 100,000 retailers and we might have grown greens and fruits for them. Reliance would give seeds to the farmer, train them the methods, and straight raise the produce… But the Akalis cancelled it… I’ve been speaking to specialists… steered that if we are able to get a grant from the Government of India… for possibly
Rs 20,000-30,000 crore, create a kind of MSP for pulses. We cease rising paddy and begin rising pulses… Pulses want no water, they are going to develop simply with rainfall… I hope this pursuits the Government, we have now despatched a proposal.
HARIKISHAN SHARMA: During your tenure as CM, did the Centre, notably the Minister of Agriculture or anybody from the Prime Minister’s Office, ever ask you to mediate with the farmers?
Initially, the Government of India thought I used to be the one behind this motion… If anybody needs to protest within the nationwide capital, it’s inside their energy to take action. I’m not going to cease them… But sure, individuals have been assembly these farmers on the Singhu border to discover a answer — not politicians, however intelligence officers, businesses… I do know the farmers are robust however I (was) apprehensive of the affect on the legislation and order in Punjab. The farmers have been very peaceable, cooperative.
… For me, it (the priority) goes past that… Today, there’s a China and Pakistan collusion, now you should have a Taliban collusion… The Taliban, Chinese and Pakistani forces collectively… I would like Punjab to be safe and protected.
If you don’t have an answer (earlier than the elections), none of us will be capable of go to villages, they won’t need you. How do you struggle an election? How do you enter the agricultural belt? They throw stones and break vehicles.
MANOJ C G: Now that you’re out of the Congress, what’s your frank opinion about Rahul Gandhi? Do you assume the Congress can bounce again beneath his management?
ANANT GOENKA: I need to add to the query. Four or 5 months in the past, you had been very supportive of the subsequent era of the Gandhi household (in a dialog with The Indian Express).
I’ve seen the Congress develop. I used to be a younger MP with Mrs Indira Gandhi in 1980, she had an excellent set of advisors. When Rahul got here into the image, I mentioned he was not prepared for it. Subsequently, he and Priyanka began travelling, they usually have improved since then. So let’s see, solely time will inform if they’re prepared for it.
MANRAJ GREWAL SHARMA: Many really feel that if the Congress is to succeed, the Opposition is to succeed, the Gandhis ought to get out of the way in which.
I’m not within the Congress, why are you asking me? However, you (the celebration) put apart 23 eminent individuals, similar to Ghulam Nabi Azad, Shashi Tharoor, Kapil Sibal (a part of the Group of 23 that’s demanding sweeping adjustments within the Congress). They are property of the celebration. What are you reaching by that? If you need to strengthen a celebration, you make it a cohesive pressure, make individuals be part of it, you don’t push them out. And if you happen to assume you are able to do away with the older era and simply begin one thing proper from the beginning, it’s not going to work.
NIRUPAMA SUBRAMANIAN: You gained with an enormous majority in 2017, introduced some improbable tasks. Can you replicate on the place issues went improper? Could you’ve gotten finished one thing in another way?
There are ambitions of your personal individuals; each minister has a number of portfolios. I’m not saying Charanjit Singh Channi shouldn’t be a great minister. But then ambition comes… People had been cooking up studies… I’m going to proceed doing a great job whether or not I’m throughout the Congress or with out it.
I hope we will have a seat adjustment with the BJP and with the Dhindsa faction.
VANDITA MISHRA: One can’t keep away from the sense of disaster in Punjab. The trade has stalled, agriculture has plateaued, mother and father need to ship their kids overseas. You say Punjab must be protected and secured. But do you assume you’re not protected, you’re not safe? Do you want a authorities or police or army to safe Punjab and Punjabiyat?
Punjabiyat means individuals of Punjab have at all times thought of themselves Punjabi, whether or not from an higher caste or another caste. Everyone works collectively as a result of it’s our heritage, it comes by way of our faith. You’re proper, individuals are asking their mother and father to promote their land to assist them go to different nations. Young individuals have ambition, that doesn’t imply we abandon Punjab. Hence, my goal was that Rs 1 lakh crore industrial funding wants to come back into the state… They (the vested pursuits) haven’t any recruits right now and Punjab is peaceable. But they are going to recruit (if there’s no answer to the farmer agitation).
Kamaldeep Singh Brar: Can you share names of among the massive smugglers arrested throughout your tenure as a part of the crackdown on medication?
When I took over, 65,000 individuals caught in drug instances had been in jail. When I left, there have been 45,000. There had been six massive fish, however I’m sorry, I don’t have the names with me. For one of many accused we had reached out to the Interpol and had been making an attempt to get him extradited. We extradited one particular person from Armenia, one from Spain, one particular person is already in a lockup in Rome, one other goes by way of extradition proceedings, and one particular person is from Georgia… I broke the again of the drug cartels, however that doesn’t imply the racket has ended. It hasn’t led to America and Americans have been working for the reason that 1930s to complete the drug cartels.
Kamaldeep Singh Brar: Your authorities didn’t act on the STF report that alleged a nexus between police personnel, politicians and an alleged smuggler, Gurdeep Singh, who was arrested final yr.
It’s the STF’s job right now to see to it that motion is taken.
Navjeevan Gopal: In your resignation letter to Sonia Gandhi, you mentioned plenty of Congress leaders had been concerned in unlawful sand mining, however you didn’t identify them because it may embarrass the celebration. Do you intend to disclose these names now?
I’m instructed that there are 4 or 5 massive contractors within the mining enterprise and little fellows who become involved… The Congress president instructed me unlawful mining is happening within the state and we mentioned among the names. I knowledgeable the minister involved to look into this problem. We knew who these individuals had been, however they weren’t caught. It wouldn’t be proper of me to take names till these individuals are caught.
Anju Agnihotri Chaba: Every successive authorities in Punjab previously few many years has been speaking about diversification of crops, however nothing has occurred. Why is there no concrete or long-term plan on this problem?
No, there isn’t just discuss… We made a proposal that pulses be grown. Unfortunately, these are issues you need to elevate with the Government of India, as a result of meals safety is a matter. And it takes a very long time for the Government of India to determine. And by the point one thing occurs, governments change. On points similar to diversification and the way forward for Punjab, each authorities should observe what the sooner authorities has finished… So I agree that this enterprise of diversification has been all discuss and nothing is on the bottom… In my time, it’s not that the realm (beneath paddy) has gone up, the manufacturing has. Cotton space has gone up, however that’s a part of the diversification programme. We have lower down fertilisers as an example, to get this bumper crop. But sure, it’s a foul signal that we proceed to have paddy.
(This session was held earlier than the PM’s announcement on Nov 19 that the three farm legal guidelines can be repealed)