New Delhi: Former Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, who gave up the reins of the state last Saturday, said the Congress party and the governance in the state now seem to be dominated by PPCC chief Navjot Singh Sidhu. The Congress will regret making Sidhu the state chief, said Amarinder Singh in an exclusive interview with Neha Khanna of India Ahead.
The senior party leader also took on the newly elected chief minister, Charanjit Singh Channi, and questioned his promises of free water and power to the state.
“Sidhu seems to be calling the shots. Look at all the pictures and recent events. Seems like Channi holds his hand and goes wherever he takes him. Channi is a good man but I hope he won’t be used as a puppet.” On the question of Channi being Sidhu’s proxy, Amarinder Singh uttered, “Could be.”
Hitting out at Sidhu over his role as minister, Singh said, “The man was a total failure as a minister. One file didn’t move for 7 months. And they have made this man PCC Chief and want to project him as CM face? They will regret it.”
Raising questions on Channi’s promises after becoming the Punjab chief minister, Singh said, “Channi has promised free water and power to the farmers of Punjab. It will require at least 9,000 crore. Where will the money come from? I hope the CM has done his maths. I believe he will consult with my Finance Minister who is a competent man.”
The Captain, who has been in a face-off with Sidhu for a long time now, said, “I feel let down, hurt and humiliated by the party. Sidhu kept tweeting against me, the PCC Chief would tweet against the sitting CM every single day, yet no one said a word to him or asked him to stop.”
“Where was the need for all that drama and to humiliate me the way they did by calling a CLP meeting without my knowledge when I had offered my resignation to the Congress President 3 weeks earlier? They just needed to ask me to go and I would have gone. Why did they go behind my back?” the former chief minister asked.
Questioning the role of Congress general secretary Randeep Singh Surjewala, Amarinder Singh said, “In every state, it is the CM and the CLP leader who calls the shots. How can Delhi sit and decide what is good for Punjab? Who is Randeep Singh Surjewala to decide for Punjab? Who is K C Venugopal to decide for Punjab? How can the high command decide sitting in Delhi?”
The former chief minister raised concerns over the security of the state and Sidhu’s friendship with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan. “Sidhu is friends with Pakistan PM, gives a hug to Pak Army Chief, we are a border state, I’m worried about Punjab’s security. A man like Sidhu cannot be entrusted with the security of Punjab. We will pay a heavy price,” he said.
“I have been in public life for 52 years and headed the Punjab government multiple times. I couldn’t have survived this long if I was inaccessible, unpopular or if the people were not with me,” he said.
On reports of MLAs not being with him, Amarinder Singh said, “It’s a big fraud. They were engineering these numbers to oust me. It was a ploy. To say the MLAs were not with me is a lie. I had at least 63 MLAs with me.”
Amarinder Singh termed the Gandhis’ decision to follow Prashant Kishor’s verdict on his popularity as “unfortunate”. “It is unfortunate if the Gandhis indeed based their decision on Prashant Kishor’s survey, a man I had hired. They should have trusted their own man. If he has one survey showing my unpopularity, I can show them 3 surveys showing them my popularity.”
Answering if he plans to stay in the Congress, the senior leader said, “I can’t answer that right now. It’s difficult after you have been treated like this. I need to consult my people, supporters who have been with me and then decide what to do next. I will surely tell you then.”
Further, on the question of joining BJP, he said, “I can’t answer that right now. There are parties that are in touch with us.”
Amarinder Singh also said Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok should focus on his own state instead of getting involved in the Punjab politics, after the latter asked the Captain to not hurt the party.
As the change of guard takes place in the state, the question arises whether Punjab still has the chance to win the 2022 state assembly polls. “I don’t know but it looks difficult the way they’re going. You need one strong leader. That leader can’t be Sidhu. They’re already undermining the CM. There is no collective leadership. You can’t win elections like that,” said Singh.
Despite being ousted from the top role, the senior leader vowed to fight. “I had said in 2017 that it would be my last election. A few months ago, I told Mrs Gandhi, let me win 2022 for you and then I will retire. Let me retire with a win. But I can’t retire with a defeat. Certainly not. After what they’ve done tom me, I will fight on.”
In an advice to Rahul Gandhi, he said. “You can’t be a part time leader. You have to decide if you want to lead, then become party president.”