VIDEO EDITOR: DEEPTHI RAMDAS
As the polling day for the 2022 assembly election inches closer, battlefield Punjab is all set to witness a thrilling multi-party contest between the Congress, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), Punjab Lok Congress, and the Sanyukt Samaj Morcha on 20 February.
The Quint caught up with the incumbent Chief Minister and the man at the helm of Congress' ship in the state — Charanjit Singh Channi.
Here are some excerpts from the interview:
When and why was the decision to contest from two assembly seats taken?
Contesting from two seats is not a new trend. Last time, Captain Amarinder Singh fought from two seats. This time, the party wanted me to do that. People of Malwa want development and they put forth this demand that I should fight from there. This is why we chose the Bhadaur seat. Congress has only won from that seat once in the last 50 years but I am confident of winning.
Is this is a demand of the people or a subtle message to the AAP and Akali Dal that you will fight them on their home turf?
If you want to say that, I won't deny it. People in Bhadaur want a strong candidate, and maybe they see a strong candidate in me. I want the whole of Malwa region to move towards development. It is one region which has been traditionally ignored by those in power despite two former Chief Ministers coming from Malwa.
Last time Captain Amarinder Singh fought from two seats, this time it's you. Should we say that you are the party's CM face in this election?
This is for the party to decide. I have been told that we've been getting a lot of calls from people regarding who should be our chief ministerial face. The party is expected to announce a name very soon.
How would you respond to Captain Amarinder Singh's statement about you not being capable enough to become the Chief Minister of a state?
Captain is now only capable of calling reporters and creating a nuisance value. He did not step out of his palace for 4.5 years and still doesn't want to do that. Punjab will not accept this. People have seen how capable am I in these 111 days. I don't need a certificate from him.
The Aam Aadmi Party has come to the battlefield this time around with a CM face. Is this is a Charanjit Channi vs Bhagwant Mann election?
AAP had no CM face in 2017 because Arvind Kejriwal, the Chief Minister of Delhi, wanted to become the CM here. He failed. They tried the same strategy again this time but realised that it won't work. So now he has named Bhagwant Mann as the candidate but Mann will be remote-controlled from Delhi.
The accusations of party high-command remote controlling Punjab leadership have been levelled against the Congress as well. How would you react to that?
Captain Amarinder Singh got the opportunity to work independently for 4.5 years. After that, it was us — the party unit in Punjab — who went to the high command in Delhi seeking his removal, not the other way round.
Talking about the Congress party, report after report suggests that all is not well inside the Punjab unit. How do you plan to fix this?
Our house in Punjab is absolutely in order. Navjot Singh Sidhu, other members of the party, and I have made it clear that whoever will be declared as the CM face by the party, we will support that person. We are not running after a post. We are all here for Punjab.
What is your stand on 'sacrilege killings'?
We've always had a clear stand on the subject. A murder case has been registered in the Kapurthala incident and the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) has formed an SIT to probe what happened in Amritsar. We won't tolerate anybody disturbing the law and order in the state.
What is your three-point agenda for Punjab?
According to me, the need of the hour is free or affordable, and good quality education, health, and jobs for the youth.
What are your predictions for the elections? How many seats will Congress win?
I will say exactly what every other party says — we (Congress) will win a two third majority.