CHANDIGARH: Declaring that he would launch his new party as soon as the Election Commission clears its name and symbol, former Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Wednesday hit out at the Congress, saying many from the party were in touch with him and they will come out in the open when the time comes. He also said that his new party will enter only into a seat-sharing arrangement with the BJP and SAD rebels and not an alliance.
After stepping down as Chief Minister, Amarinder said, "Our lawyers were in talks with the Election Commission of India for the party’s name and symbol. We are waiting for the opportune moment. But I will not take their names. Already my supporters are being harassed." Asked how many MLAs were in touch with him, he quipped, "If Rahul Gandhi needs to have back-to-back meetings with Punjab Congress MLAs, what does it mean?”
As to why he had not resigned yet from the party, Amarinder responded, "I have spent 50 years in the Congress, how does it manner if I stay for another 10 days?"
He said the Congress is nowhere in the picture in Punjab and their fight would be with the Shiromani Akali Dal.
He rejected Congress claims of a majority of the MLAs opposing his continuation in office and said, “Once they (party leadership) had made up their mind to replace me, all these excuses were made.” Pointing out that the so-called 18-point agenda of the Congress for his government was nothing but part of the Punjab 2017 manifesto, he said the Kharge committee was clearly told that 92 per cent of all the poll promises had been fulfilled.
Pointing out that he had never spoken of aligning with the BJP, Amarinder said what he wanted to do was seat sharing. "In military parlays, it means concentration of forces,” he remarked, adding that he had, however, not yet talked
to the BJP on this. Dismissing as trash Sidhu’s tweet accusing him of being loyal to the BJP, he said the thought of seat-sharing with the BJP came to his mind only after he was forced out of office. "States have to work with the Centre to function effectively,” he pointed out.
He further made it clear that he had no intention of aligning with the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) but only with breakaway Akali groups. Asked about the reported refusal of Dhindsa to tie up with him, Amarinder said, "If Dhindsa has to put up a real fight, he will have to concentrate his forces too to defeat the Congress, SAD and AAP. We will all have to work as a joint force,” he asserted.
Clarifying his stand on the farmers’ agitation, Amarinder said he was talking to the Union Home Minister Amit Shah and not to farmers and Shah was talking to the farmer unions. "I will be meeting the Union Home Minister on this issue besides meeting the National Security Advisor as already I had three meetings with Shah," he said.
Taking on his detractors, particularly Navjot Sidhu and Sukhjinder Randhawa, Amarinder slammed them for indulging in petty issues. "We will fight and defeat Sidhu from wherever he contests the upcoming Assembly polls," he vowed, adding that since the former had taken over the Punjab Congress reins, there had been a 25 per cent drop in the party’s popularity, as per his surveys.
Trashing allegations against his Pakistani friend Aroosa Alam, Amarinder termed as baseless the charges of money being sent out by her. Even as he asked if Aroosa was the only issue left in Punjab, he questioned the intention of Randhawa in raising the issue now after never raking it up all these years. Aroosa had been visiting him for sixteen years and he would definitely invite her again, he added.
He said he was open to a CBI, Income Tax or ED probe into the allegations of her taking money out of the country.
Trashing allegations of not delivering during the four-and-a-half years of his rule, Amarinder listed out various works completed by his government and said the Charanjit Channi government was merely implementing what we had decided to do. "All the work we started is simply being carried forward. The land ownership of Lal Doras and slums was started by me, it was a decision of my cabinet,” he pointed out.
Countering propaganda that nothing had happened in the Bargari and other sacrilege cases, the former Chief Minister said all were being investigated. As many as 19 police officers and 21 civilians were booked, he said, pointing out that all these processes take time.
Listing some of his government’s achievements, he disclosed that of the targeted Rs 1 lakh crore industrial investment, Rs 96,000 crore had already come by the time he stepped down as Chief Minister. Leading corporate houses had invested in Punjab, he said, adding that fortunately, the farmers’ agitation had not impacted investments in the state. He also shared with the media a booklet titled ‘Facts v/s Disinformation’, detailing achievements of his government from March 2017 till September 18.
On the political issues he will prioritise in the elections, the former CM said a manifesto committee would finalise the same. Issues keep changing, he noted.