'Please ask Rahul Gandhi,' Amarinder Singh said when asked if he was the chief ministerial candidate of the Congress in the upcoming polls in Punjab. Photograph: (AFP)
Amarinder Singh said he would 'ensure that the Congress came back to power' in Punjab
Question: Will demonetisation affect elections in Punjab?
Answer: They will affect Punjab. Absolutely. Villages. 10,700 villages and 7,000 aren’t covered by the banking system. You find long queues in the city and villages. Bitterness is growing. Punjab has a short fuse and I can certainly tell you that Punjab will be impacted by the demonetisation.
Question: How will you end the VVIP culture in Punjab?
Answer: The police is working for 18 hours a day. We are going to make it 8 hours a day. They are red-eyed and exhausted and they don’t even get a day off. When I travel. Every 200 yards, a man is standing with a danda (stick). The relics of the terrorist period need to go. I will change it. Over 10,000 policemen are on this change. They need to be deployed in the distict of policing and it needs to happen.
Question: In the past 5 years, two episodes took place. Nabha and Pathankot. How do you see it?
Answer: In Pathankot, foreign elements were involved and someone didn’t do a proper job. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) is looking into it. But for Nabha or Fazilka we came to know that a known crook was holding a meeting inside the jail. In Ropar they found 20 TV screens on the walls. The Nabha breakout was engineered by the government itself. DGP Punjab on record has said that 40 odd gangs are operating in Punjab and the breakout involved one of the gangs. And these gangs are used in elections.
Question: Punjab has a very high debt rate and unemployment stands higher than the national average. How do you expect to control it?
Answer: There is no agriculture or industrial policy. No industry has come up. Our situation is very bad. By time the new government comes up our debt would be lakh an 35 thousand crores. It is a revenue deficit state. We are in an economic mess.
Question: SAD and BJP have spoken about the work they have done for the heritage sites. Is it symbolic or substantive?
Answer: Working for a religion is a good thing to do. The cultural department handles it. I want Punjabi culture to be enhanced. The beautification of durbar sahib (Golden Temple) is very good. But it doesn’t feed empty stomachs. 90 lakh youngsters don’t have jobs. I want to give them jobs. I have promised one job per household. We have to revamp the agricultural policy. All are surplus money is going out because people don’t have confidence in the government.
Question: Drug is a major issue and how will you address it?
Answer: Everybody knows that there is a problem. Puppy is the poppy husk. It is opium. One that is doing the damage is chitta. We will break the nexus. We will do it.
Answer: We know it. Police knows it. Everyone knows it. We will break the nexus. We will catch these fellows and put them behind the bars.
Question: Badal says that BSF isn’t doing their job?
Answer: They are the ones who are involved. It comes from Afghanistan. BSF is responsible as it is the first layer but the second layer is police. What are they doing?
Question: How can you say that the Badals are responsible?
Answer: I’m talking about the Akalis. The Akalis are manufacturers and salesmen. Everything is through them. When I was MP (Member of Parliament) from Amritsar, I know there are mohallas (neighbourhoods) where there are no men left. You only have women and children.
Question: Whom are you fighting against?
Answer: Let me tell you that Akalis have slid. They don’t exist anymore. Akali Dal President got stoned in his constituency. They did well and I didn’t expect. They haven’t functioned well in Delhi. Delhi is Punjabi city. Everything travels back home. Kejriwal’s people are being tried in serious cases. In Punjab, they don’t have an organisation. People from other states have been made incharge of the districts and 50,000 outsiders are being brought in to man the booths. Youth had hope in them but know they don’t trust them. Our girls are being raped and that’s what AAP people are doing who have come from out stations.
Question: You cannot deny the fact that they got four seats during Lok Sabha elections
Answer: Yes. Where are these MPs now. One has announced him as CM candidate. People have got disillusioned and people have moved away from them.
Question: So you are saying that Kejriwal is not a threat to the Congress Party?
Answer: I follow social media. There is no positive comment for Kejriwal by Punjabis. They have lost confidence in the chap.
Question: Why did Congress absorb Sidhu?
Answer: He belongs to the Congress family. He is not a BJP man. His father was in Patiala. When my mother went to Parliament my mother saw to it that his father became the district Congress president. I had watched him play cricket. He is a nice boy. These things happen. He is been through BJP and is disillusioned with them.
Question: So are you saying that he is going to make any difference to the Congress party?
Answer: When you are in battle you chose everyone. And yes he will contribute. We will use him in other seats as well.
Question: What is your relationship with Rahul Gandhi?
Answer: I have good relationship with him. We get on very well.
Question: Is it correct that you had to arm twist him to become the face of the Congress in Punjab?
Answer: That’s not the case. You cannot arm twist anyone but then I did say that if you don’t have need for me then I will have to find my own place as it is my last elections. I did say this.
Question: Am I speaking to the future chief minister of Punjab?
Answer: Well please ask Rahul Gandhi. My job is to bring the Congress back and I'm going to ensure that it comes back.