Anand Singh/Qadian( Punjab): With just over a week left for polling for the 117-member Punjab assembly, Congress leader Pratap Singh Bajwa said that party may have announced Charanjit Singh Channi as chief ministerial candidate in the state but in politics nothing can be guaranteed as things keep on changing and anything can happen.
His comments come in the wake of the debate over whether Channi can be replaced as the party’s CM face if it is voted to power.
Speaking to The New Indian, on the sidelines of campaigning in Nathpur village in his assembly seat, Bajwa, who is also a Rajya Sabha member said, “See I cannot comment more on camera, but in politics nothing can be guaranteed as things keeps changing.”
He was responding to a question that if the party can change the CM face in the state after elections. Rahul Gandhi had announced Channi’s name last Sunday over Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh . Bajwa said that when Channi became CM his name was nowhere. He all of a sudden came through as his name was projected and others name were rejected.
“One can never know, it all depends on how the electorate behaves in Punjab and how many seats we bring in and what position does Channiji holds,” he said.
He said that situation keeps changing on ground. “And once situation keeps changing, nothing can be taken as certain . Anything can happen in politics,” he said.
The Congress leader’s family has represented the Qadian seat for five times since 1972. However, this time his younger brother Fatehjung Singh Bajwa has smartly avoided a direct clash with him by switching his seat to neighbouring Batala assembly constituency despite being a sitting BJP MLa from Qadian. Bajwa is locking horns with AAP’s Jagroop Singh Sekhwan, the Shiromani Akali Dal’s Guriqbal Singh Mahal, and Johar Singh of SAD Sanyukt.
When asked about the kind of support he is getting from people of the constituency despite AAP and SAD taking the competition to a new height, he said, “My campaign is in front of you and there is euphoria among the youngsters. That at the grass-root level position of Congress is very strong and in the coming days party is going to form the government on its own and it going to change the face of Punjab.”
He said that there is need to bring in industry in Punjab. “As Punjab has a peculiar problem of many youngsters leaving for foreign countries. They are cream of Punjab in form of doctors, engineers and others. So people who belong to poorest strata do not get jobs. Thus we need to bring in industry. And agro industry is the only option based on requirement here. It will ensure that Punjab grows in a major way,” the Congress leader said.
Citing the example of the NCP Chief Sharad Lawar Lok Sabha constituency Baramati in Maharashtra, he said that it is hub for sugarcane. “But our belt is better for sugarcane, our canes are sweeter, our sugar content is better. As he (Pawar) has developed the entire area into sugar hub, we will like to develop this pattern in whole of Punjab,” he said, without mentioning Dhariwal mills, which has been shut for years.
On if he feels that AAP is campaigning aggressively in Punjab and now it looks like a triangular fight in the state, Bajwa said, “One thing is for sure AAP has always got much more support from press whether national or regional. Last time media gave them 100 seats but they ended with 15 seats. This time they are giving them 50 and this time they will land up between from 10 to 15.”
The Congress leader, who is also the chairman of the party’s election committee for manifesto, said, “Punjab is a hub of traditional parties. AAP will only grow in certain areas where Congress or SAD have weaker candidates. Where both the candidates are unpopular, there are chances for the third party. Wherever you have a honest, upright or strong candidate from Congress, BJP or Akali, there coming through for AAP will become difficult. They can be relegated to 10 to 15 seats in Punjab.”
To another question if he feels that Enforcement Directorate (ED) arresting Channi’s nephew ahead of the elections can have a negative impact on party’s prospects, he said, “I don’t think so. They (BJP) have done similar thing by raiding the nephew of Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal. Did you see the results? Particularly the Dalits and deprived class are feeling that (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi is trying to somehow sabotage the chances of Channi.”
“And I think there is more resentment among poor over the actions of BJP. If they had got any significant knowledge about this, they should have raided earlier. The raids are coming in the midst of elections. Even during the last phase of polls in Bengal, they also raided the nephew of Banerjee in West Bengal and questioned him and his wife.
“And you saw the results as she surpassed the number of seats as compared to earlier elections,” he added.
To another question that with which party Congress will have alliance in case of no full majority, Bajwa said that they first need to come to bridge to cross it. “Let us first wait for it (results) and I am hopeful that we will get full majority. The chances of Congress not getting a full majority or falling short by few seats will not arise,” he said, adding that the electorate of Punjab has always given a clear mandate to one party.
But the last 72 hours would be decisive as 38 per cent votes are of the Hindu community and they make up their mind in last 3 days. And Hindus in Punjab, as we have undergone 15 years of terrorism, will bring in a party which is nationalist and brings peace in Punjab. So I feel that majority of the Hindu brother and sisters will also vote for the Congress and bring the party to power,” Bajwa said.
When asked about two different political flags, one of the Congress and the other one of the BJP, on his home, he said that one must understand that it is his family home which they got from his father and inherited from him.
“My younger brother stays on ground floor and I stay on top floor. He has put his party flag on first floor and I have put on top floor. And all the major families in India have got divided like this such as Scindias.
This kind of thing does happen in politics. It is unfortunate but this is the truth about Indian politics,” he said.
When questioned about Pathankot Terror attack martyr family still awaiting for the promises made by the government, he said, “I am not sure which particular family you are talking about.”
Bajwa said, “All these promises are made by the central government as these martyrs are from either Indian armed forces or paramilitary forces. If the state government has made any promise, I am not aware as I am a member of the Rajya Sabha. And if promises have been made, I will take care of all of them.”
Qadian is the world-famous centre of Ahmadiyya Muslim community, but lacks basic amenities such as sewerage and quality medical services. There are no employment avenues for the youth and even the famous woollen mills established by the Britishers at Dhariwal are now shut.
The majority of population is of Sikhs, but there is a substantial Hindu population as well. The town also has a sizeable number of Muslims, while Dhariwal has a concentrated Christian population.
Polling for the 117-member house is scheduled on February 20. Counting of votes will take place on March 10. The ruling Congress is looking for a second consecutive term while the AAP is trying to make inroads in the state.
SAD is also trying to regain lost ground in the state, while BJP in alliance with Amarinder Singh’s Punjab Lok Congress is trying to get some political space.