INTERVIEW | ‘Regional parties a key factor in many states,’ says Sukhbir Singh Badal

In this conversation with TNIE Shiromani Akali Dal leader Sukhbir Singh Badal speaks about alliance, polls and the future of Punjab..
Sukhbir Singh Badal.
Sukhbir Singh Badal.Express.

CHANDIGARH: The talks of alliance with BJP broke as for the SAD its principles are most important for it and we cannot compromise on our principles and core issues…..Regional players are also calling the shots in a number of states and will be the deciding factor in many states… Open Attari and Ferozepur borders with Pakistan to facilitate trade to central Asia… Delhi based parties have always discriminated against Punjab says Shiromani Akali Dal President Sukhbir Singh Badal while talking to Harpreet Bajwa

Q: For the first time since 1996, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) is fighting the Lok Sabha polls without an alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), what were the reasons that led to the breakdown of your alliance talks with the BJP, will the party perform better or the vote share will be affected, as both BJP and SAD used to complement each other?

A: First of all I would like to explain why the SAD chose not to align with the BJP. For the SAD its principles are most important for it. We cannot compromise on our principles and core issues. This is why we enumerated our issues like making minimum support price (MSP) a legal entity and honouring all promises made to farmers during the Kisan Andolan, releasing Sikh detainees who have been incarcerated for as many as 28 years even after completing their life sentences and a stop to interference in the religious affairs and institutions of the Sikh Panth.

Sadly these issues were not taken up for resolution. As far as performance of the SAD is concerned, that is for Punjabis to decide. I can only say that the phenomenal response to the party’s Punjab Bachao Yatra is a ready indicator of Punjabis. We will perform well. I cannot answer for the BJP.

Q: What is the future for regional parties as BJP is dominant at national level?

A: As far as I know regional parties are getting traction across the country and are major players in the forthcoming parliamentary elections. Regional players are also calling the shots in a number of states and will be the deciding factor in many states. This is because of the growing realization among people that regional parties can address their aspirations best. I am getting this feeling in Punjab also with people asserting they will support the SAD to strengthen the regional party.

Q: What’s your take on the electoral bonds issue?

A: The electoral bond list has revealed everything. This is not the way. What is the problem in giving cheques to parties in a transparent manner? There is something fishy when a company with a profit of ₹250-crore gives a donation of ₹1,300 crore in electoral bonds.

Q: The INDIA bloc has been accusing the BJP of trying to crush opposition by misusing central agencies, your take on it?

A: I strongly believe no government should use government agencies as a political tool. This affects the credibility of a government. The ED appears to have become a weapon. In a democracy, you can’t win hearts with dictatorship.

Q: Why did not your party join the INDIA bloc?

A: There was absolutely no question of doing that. The Congress, which heads the INDIA alliance, is responsible not only for attacking Sri Darbar Sahib (Golden Temple) with tanks and mortars, but is also responsible for the genocide of Sikhs in 1984. This genocide was sponsored by the Congress party. The Sikh community can never forgive the Congress for these acts.

Q: There is opposition to use of EVMs as some demonstrations have revealed that these machines can be managed to favor a particular party?

A: This is an issue which is being adjudicated by the Supreme Court. Let it arrive at a conclusion on this.

Q: Many families from Punjab move to other countries to earn a living. Is this because of unemployment or lack of opportunities or is the atmosphere not conducive?

A: Punjab has witnessed ten years of misrule during the last ten years, first at the hands of the Congress and now the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). Punjab has also gone back with no infrastructure project or investment coming into the state. This has resulted in joblessness. It has not helped that the current AAP government has chosen to give government jobs to outsiders. All this coupled with lawlessness has resulted in exodus of youth to foreign countries.

Q: On what issues will your party contest these Lok Sabha elections?

A: We are committed to more powers for the state and a genuine federal structure. We also want the opening of the Attari and Ferozepur borders with Pakistan to facilitate trade to central Asia. We also want an end to misuse of draconian laws like NSA. We have always strived to take everyone along on the path to progress and will work to preserve the atmosphere of peace and communal harmony on the basis of the vision of Sarbat da Bhala.

Q: You publicly apologized in the Golden Temple for the 2015 sacrilege incidents. Do you think the people have forgiven you and this issue is closed for good or will it continue to haunt your party?

A: What I did in the precincts of Sri Akal Takht Sahib came from my heart. I was pained at the incidents of sacrileges which occurred during our stint in power and apologized to our Guru. I do not want to politicize this issue. Sacrileges are occurring even now but we have not tried to draw any political dividend from them.

Q: The yatras are the flavor of this poll season. How has Punjab Bachao Yatra yielded results?

A: You are saying Yatras are becoming the flavor of the season but the truth is that the SAD only is taking out a Yatra and reaching out to the people directly. All other parties are afraid to go to the people in the same manner because they know they will be exposed and even hauled up for their misdeeds.

Q: Senior Badal was the tallest leader from Punjab. Are you feeling his absence during the campaigning?

A: Sardar Parkash Singh Badal was an institution whose absence can never be filled. He is an inspiration for not only me but the entire SAD and Punjabis for the inspiring manner in which he led Punjab through thick and thin. We continue to keep him as our ideal and do everything keeping in mind the principles set by him.

Q: BJP is trying to expand its base in the state especially rural areas as in the past two years it has inducted many sikh leaders from other parties including Congress and your party, your take on it?

A: You will have to ask the BJP for this or take feedback from Punjabis as to how they view this exercise. Much of the reactions are in the public domain.

Q: You have been saying to keep Delhi parties out of the state if one has to save Punjab, why?

A: The political situation in Punjab demands this. Delhi based parties have always discriminated against Punjab, be it the issue of its capital or its river waters. We have never got justice. Delhi based parties are also trying to fool Punjabis like in the case of the Congress and AAP who are contesting the parliamentary elections in an alliance at the national level but contesting separately in Punjab to deceive Punjabis.

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