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Thursday, June 30, 2022

Navjot Singh Sidhu on his chances for CM

Amid a tug of war over in Punjab Congress over the Chief Minister face ahead of the 2022 Assembly elections, PPCC chief Navjot Singh Sidhu tells The Indian Express about his Punjab model, the time when the high command would declare the CM face, the farmers brush with politics, the drug mafia and the quid pro quo between Congress and Akalis.

This is no vendetta. It is a three-pronged strategy to keep the youth away from drugs, giving him a high that he gets from drugs through sports, skilling and entrepreneurship and giving him opportunity. Also, the law must be feared. And there must be exemplary punishment for wiping out a generation. This comes from my heart. I could never imagine a politician, belonging from a well-to-do family stooping so low. It’s due to the greed of a few people who were not punished that Punjab has fallen prey to a nexus between drug paddlers, politicians and police. The law must take its own course. Why aren’t those people who need to be extradited being brought back? For five years, STF report was not opened. It has still not been opened even today. That tells you about this 75: 25 partnership (quid pro quo between Congress and Akalis). Why would a CM not open a report that the court has asked him to open and take action. What are you hiding? And from whom?

Same goes for sacrilege. Six years are over. If the DGP and AG are changed, the result is there. Give me more power. I will hang them like a scarecrow.

When you use a good man, just to win elections by making him a showpiece and not for policy making, then you are not doing justice to the new generation. It’s for the people of Punjab to decide, parties to decide.

Navjot Singh Sidhu in New Delhi. (Express Photo by Tashi Tobgyal)

How do you look at farmers’ organisations jumping into poll fray?

In a democratic setup, everyone has the right to project himself. If an independent candidate can stand, why can’t the farmers? You either get the governments of the day to give you your rights politically. Or you yourself become politically strong to implement what you want. They have taken the second route. Let the people decide. Who am I or you to decide who is wrong and who is right? Yes, politically there will be people who will say sanctity (of the agitation) is gone.

But farmers and the government have a common goal. It is very simple: this social movement has to become a financial strength for the farmers. His earnings are dwindling and cost of inputs going up. In 1992, diesel was Rs 5 per litre. Today, it is touching Rs 100. It has gone up by 20 times. The MSP was Rs 303 per quintal. That has gone upto Rs 1700. As a person from farming background, I would ask, do we have a progressive agenda? We are standing where we were a year ago. You look at the treachery of Centre, FCI is being unbundled. Seven years ago, we had a debt of Rs 95,000 crore. Today, it is Rs 4 lakh crore. The PDS was reduced from Rs 70 crore to Rs 40 crore. How have they done it? Then you look at the retail market. Facebook, WhatsApp and Reliance have all the data.

My question is that we know the intent of Centre. What is the state government doing? Has a farming organisation given a progressive agenda? We have to go for crop diversification. We say our water has gone down. To grow 1 kg paddy, we have to spend 5,000 litres of water. We have actually exported four or five SYLs. We only consume 8 per cent of paddy produced. The Punjab government should give MSP on oilseeds and pulses. We spend Rs 70,000 crore on importing edible oil. If you include the pulses then it becomes Rs 1 lakh crore.This will be such lucrative business for farmers. Why doesn’t the processing industry go to the government and why to Birlas and Tatas. Why cannot the state’s warehousing corporation give space for free to the farmers? Why cannot the cold stores be set up for farmers. If a tomato grower sells tomatoes for Rs 5, he gets them at Rs 60 per kg for his own consumption.

Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi with Navjot Singh Sidhu in Amritsar (Express photo by Rana Simranjit Singh)

Don’t you think for your model to see the light of the day, the entire system will require an overhaul?

That is what I am saying. The lollipops that you are giving mean nothing. It needs structural changes. You need to build a system. You announced that power will be free. Do you know the power subsidy bill is Rs 14,000 crore? Will you be able to make petrol, diesel cheaper for five years? You do it for six months then I will show you. Then you said sand will be free. Is it done? Can you free it up? It is available for Rs 4500 per 100 cubic feet from Pathankot. Minimum price is Rs 2200. Why was it not done? The contractors say you auctioned us the mines, we paid you for those. Who are you making it free for? Now, if the system is such then how will you do it? I am seeking a change in that system. We will need money for that. I have talked about minimum wages under Urban Employment Guarantee Mission. This is the first time in India any state has talked about it.

Is all this going to be part of your party manifesto?

This is what Punjab model is. To actually give budgetary allocations to reach your goal. What is your goal? How will you raise farmers income? How will a person who is deep into the system of sand mining, and liquor business, the easiest way to make money, change the system? How will he make a corporation? Then who will deliver? That is the biggest question. A person who is actually out of this system, who wants to transform Punjab into a welfare state. Punjab model is nothing but breaking this system and creating a new system which make Punjab a welfare state, which puts money into social welfare schemes, which cares for the last man in the queue and not the privileged class.

Did the Congress government waste five years? It was such a strong government with 77 MLAs.

I was not part of that government. I refused to be a part of that system. It was a corrupt system. It was a system of failed promises. In the end, those who wanted to close doors on me were kicked out.

Why should the people of the state trust another Congressman in you now?

I am not asking them to trust me. Why is Navjot Singh Sidhu different. I am just saying trust the policy, the roadmap.

Is the announcement of capping Cable connection at Rs 100 per month delivered? Is free sand delivered? Is regularisation of 36,000 contractual employees delivered? How many should I count? Now, the people should believe in the moral authority of the person. Does anyone have the moral authority to deliver a changed system. Does he have character? That should be the criteria.

What Arvind Kejriwal is talking about, is that not the biggest fraud ever? Ask him where will he get the money from. In Delhi, he has given liquor vends to Deep Malhotra and Ponty Chaddha’s men. That is why he does not say money will come from liquor. I say that we will make Rs 25,000 crore to Rs 30,000 crore. You say you will earn Rs 20,000 crore from sand. Tell me a state that has earned Rs 3,000 crore from sand except Telangana.

Navjot Singh Sidhu with Priyanka Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. (File Photo: Twitter/@sherryontop)

Will they make you a CM candidate?

It is for the people of Punjab to decide. They will decide who will deliver, has the moral authority, who will create the new system. That is why my slogan is Jittega-Punjab.

As far as the announcement is concerned, yes, any announcement.

Last time Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) lost the battle because they did not have a CM face. You have bogies but where is the engine? Engine is important. You either fight on issues or you fight on face. There will be a lot of clarity once parties decide their plan of action. That is high command. This is the only way forward. Lollies will not do because these are jugaads. If I have to put my 17 years of fight is for the Punjab model. The face will be the one who has moral authority and agenda. It took me six years to lodge an FIR against Majithia. Have you heard of a person who gets the DGP and AG removed. And results ensue. FIR surely is not justice but it is the first step. A new system must be created with no malice towards an individual. If you become a money making machine for the CM, only then he gets the IAS officers to do your works. Otherwise, he makes you sit at home. System needs to change.

You have been going around announcing the tickets. Do you have high command approval f?

What did I say? I only said this person will not run away. If someone does not work in his constituency and then wants to fly away like a migratory bird, who will tend to that constituency? Then you will dislodge others. You work where you have been elected from. This does not mean I am announcing tickets. I am just stating a truth.

Why is ticket announcement delayed?

The Congress has a system. It will go through the system.

Amarinder Singh

Amarinder Singh, Navjot Sidhu and Sunil Jakhar at Punjab Congress Bhawan in Chandigarh in July this year (Express file photo by Jasbir Malhi)

Did you have a showdown with Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi in the screening committee meeting?

There are no showdowns. There are no personal conflicts. It is just a fight against the system, just a long drawn out battle for change in the system, to stop the theft that has been going on for the last 30 years, selling Punjab, mortgaging it. The resources have been exploited for individual gains. The mission is to take the money out of individual pockets and put it back in the exchequer. State’s treasury is being robbed and state’s expenses are being completed by taking debt. We will be a totally debt ridden state soon. What a shame. It is the policy that will deliver. I see the government far beyond 2022. Those who are contesting elections are seeing the government of only two months. It is policy, policy, policy that will deliver and not jugaad.

It is believed that if the high command replaces Charanjit Singh Channi as CM face, the action will boomerang among SCs.

Is this about merit? Is this about a roadmap and agenda or the caste?

But don’t you think it was about the caste?

It is not about caste. It is the land of Gurus. Punjab is na Hindu na musalmaan. Punjab jeeve guruan de naal. I think we should be looking at our policies that are beneficial for Dalits. The party is wise to know the best time to announce the candidate. The party has done it for 70 years. They will only take only one criterion into consideration-that is merit. It is about who will pull Punjab out of the woods and how. It is not just announcing goals, selling dreams but also the means to reach you goals. People will ask who will deliver, what is the agenda, what is the roadmap. This election is not for the next election. It is for next generation. The youth is very hopeful about Punjab model. That to me is our last hope. If someone has a better plan I will walk behind it.

Do you sometimes feel disappointed? You joined Congress five years ago. You stand at the same point today.

No. Two CMs have bitten the dust. Then there is jeeja-saala (SAD chief Sukhbir Badal and Bikram Majithia), who are gone. Punjab is aware of our resurrection plan. I was not sitting at home when my portfolio was changed. It was Punjab model that was coming up. So, I have embraced every calamity and created an opportunity. That’s is why I am an eternal optimist. You learn only when calamity stares at you. This fight wasn’t so easy. There was no compromise. People have faith in me. This politics of hope and trust has been kept alive by Navjot Sidhu. Nineteen years of internal cricket, 10 years of commentary, 20 years of TV, four time MP but the greatest satisfaction lies in making a difference.

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