Member of Parliament in the Rajya Sabha and former State President of the Congress in Punjab, Partap Singh Bajwa has upped the ante against Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh for his autocratic style of functioning and has alleged that the CM is shielding smugglers and drug traffickers.The differences emerged after 121 people died after consuming spurious liquor recently. The Rajya Sabha MP said the Captain has outsourced government functioning to a couple of babus.
Excerpts from his interview with IANS:
Q: What is the reason for the fight between you and Captain Amarinder Singh?
A: There is no personal animosity between the Captain and myself. It was I who worked as the PCC president before elections. In the last 3 years it was my hard work which has given good results, so there is no personal agenda.The problem is that promises were made during the election but these promises were not met and we cannot be mute spectators.Amarinder had said that he needed 4 weeks time during elections. He had said: "I will fix everything and will take action against those five Mafias." But no action was taken and I can name those also but everybody knows the names of these Mafias.
Q: Any other issue which is also at the centre of the dispute?
A: Other issues behind the differences with the Chief Minister are the desecration of Guru Granth Sahib as the last Akali government was hand in glove with Dera Saccha Sauda for political gain but was caught on the wrong foot and a massive agitation took place, even two youngsters were killed.Amarinder Singh had promised to look into the case and bring to book those who desecrated the Guru Granth Sahib. He also promised that the killers of the two youth will be brought to justice. But that has also not been done.
Q: Are you suggesting that the government is in cahoots with the people involved in smuggling and drug trafficking?
A: This is what I have told them, obviously if you are not dismantling them what does it show.
The chief minister is also the excise minister and home minister, and for the last three consecutive years Punjab has been losing money due to spurious liquor. Punjab lost around Rs 2,700 crore and the excise department is not able to achieve its targets.This is the first time that the targets have not been achieved and this is a loss to the exchequer when there is a hooch tragedy in which 121 people lost their lives.
Q: What was the procedure earlier?
A: Earlier auctions took place. There was already a set target -- this is the money that you can get from liquor. This is the first time that targets are not met and already the state has lost Rs 2,700 crore and then comes the hooch tragedy in the first week of August which claims 121 lives in three districts -- the whole thing smells of an excise mafia.
Q: But the party said that you should have raised the issue within the party and only then gone elsewhere. Why did you go directly to the Governor?
A: We have been raising the issue. It has been raised N number of times.
Even 2 months back, the Captain called a meeting of all Punjab MPs. My colleague Shamsher Singh Dullo who is also an MP and I raised this issue. There were other MPs who also supported us on this issue and they said that it seems that the government is supporting this type of elements.They told me: "Why don't you take action against them."
Q: Then what happened?
A: When the media asked the Punjab Chief Minister about our letters he said I don't get these letters and if I get also then it's not necessary to answer them and this is not personal work I am doing. He told the media: "We are talking about a set agenda."Why did we go to the Governor? Because the inquiry was ordered to be conducted by Commissioner Jalandhar and how can the Commissioner Jalandhar give a report against people who are powerful, and what if somebody in the Chief Minister's Office was involved.We went to the hon'ble Governor to ask for a CBI or ED inquiry, because these are premier agencies and the culprit could be brought to book.
Q: So now you think that the party has to decide between you and the chief minister.
A: This is not the right thing to say because I have never said that I am a candidate for chief minister.The issue is that so much time has passed, the mandate has not been honoured and now people of Punjab think that we have cheated the mandate.The Captain did exactly the opposite of what he promised to do.But if you want to save the party, then the Congress has to take a decision to replace Amarinder Singh and the party president in the state. To make the change you have to bring somebody who is a Congressman. Firstly it should consider seniority and second is loyalty and then capability.All these should be taken into account to replace the Captain.
Q: Do you think Amarinder is not listening to the Congress workers?
A: The choice was wrong because from 1984 to 1998 he was with the Akali Dal and that is why he does not subscribe to the ideology of the party and the Congress workers are feeling totally let down. They are feeling that he is not adhering to the Congress policies and has outsourced his government to a couple of babus (officials).It seems there is Governor's rule in Punjab and not a popular Congress government.
Q: Do you think there is a weakness in the central leadership of the party which is not able to contain the chief minister and sort out differences.
A: I don't want to say anything on it and we are more and more worried about the crisis in the state.There is no feel of a Congress government. It's like Governor Raj.The Chief Minister does not function from his official residence. He has made a residence somewhere 10 kilometres from Chandigarh in a jungle and occasionally comes out from there and nobody can meet him.He does not even go to the secretariat.
Q: Is he working in an autocratic style?
A: He should stop behaving like the Maharaja of Patiala and if he does not want to function as a democratic Chief Minister then he should be shown the door.He only came to the office from his farmhouse after 5 months after we raised a hue and cry over the hooch tragedy.If the chief minister is coming out from his house after 5 months what will be the condition of the state?