Union Jal Shakti minister and BJP’s Punjab election incharge Gajendra Singh Shekhawat is a busy man these days. An MP from Rajasthan’s Jodhpur Lok Sabha constituency, Shekhawat is at the centre of the party’s poll strategy formation ahead of the assembly polls scheduled early next year in the border state.
Be it holding talks with former chief minister Captain Amarinder’s newly formed Punjab Lok Congress or the decision to induct leaders from other parties in the BJP fold, he has been taking care of it all. On his visit to Chandigarh on Tuesday, HT talked to Shekhawat on various issues. Here are the excerpts:
How do you see BJP’s chances in Punjab after the repeal of 3 farm laws?
The party’s prospects have improved drastically after the decision. We used to contest from 23 seats traditionally. This is for the first time that we are prepared to contest on all 117 seats. After Narendra Modi became Prime Minister and what he has done after for Punjab and the Sikhs, we will take these achievements to the common man and fight the polls with full strength.
A barrier was created on the pretext of these laws but it is over now. The BJP will form government in the state or will be part of the government.
You met Amarinder today. Is alliance formation with his party and SAD (Sanyukt) final?
We discussed the political scenario in Punjab. It will be premature on my part to say as on what lines the BJP will or will not enter an alliance. The only thing I can tell you is that it is highly likely that we will contest the polls as part of an alliance. Union home minister Amit Shah has already given a statement in this regard. Politics is a game of possibilities. Punjab is a border state and we are eager to work with all those who want to ensure communal harmony here.
In case of an alliance, will Amarinder be CM face of it? Will BJP be a major partner in it?
There is no such tradition in the BJP unless a serving chief minister is going to the polls. But we generally don’t announce CM candidate where we are contesting to come to power.
A strong outrage was seen against BJP in Punjab during the farm stir. Don’t you see it as a big challenge?
What Prime Minister Modi has done for the Sikh community is exceptional. There is a long list of Modi government’s pro-Sikh decisions including opening up of the Kartarpur corridor, revoking the black list, waiving GST on langar etc. Someone may create a temporary outrage among the Sikhs against the BJP, but it is not be permanent.
The Sikhs community’s contribution in pre- and post-Independence era to preserve our cultural ethos was immense. The people who tried to create hatred for the BJP among Sikhs and vice versa are defeated now.
There is a common saying in Punjab that BJP doesn’t understand the state well.
Do you still think so after the repeal of the farm laws also?
BJP first said its CM face in Punjab will be an SC. But then, Congress made Channi, a SC, CM. Will there be a change in strategy?
The announcement of making an SC a CM face was never from the party high command. Yes, some statements in this regard were made by our party leaders. But these were the individual statements, and not of the parliamentary board. The BJP doesn’t do caste politics.
When Sirsa joined BJP, SAD called an attempt to ruin Sikh institutions.
Manjinder Singh Sirsa ji first resigned as president of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC). It is easy to level allegations like Bhagwant Mann did by claiming that a senior BJP leader offered him something. Such claims are ridiculous.
Will BJP also announce some freebies in its manifesto?
Punjab doesn’t need freebies. But it is in a dire need of good administration. How can one promise everything free when you don’t even have the money to repay your debt?