Punjab Assembly election | SAD-BSP alliance heading towards decisive mandate in its favour, says Parkash Singh Badal

Former Punjab Chief Minister, Parkash Singh Badal. File image.

Former Punjab Chief Minister, Parkash Singh Badal. File image.

As the century-old Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) is fighting to wrest power from the ruling Congress in Punjab, the former Punjab Chief Minister and SAD patron Parkash Singh Badal, at the age of 94, is all set to take on his political opponents in the upcoming Assembly poll. In an exclusive interview, Mr. Badal, who is the party’s candidate from his traditional Lambi constituency, shares his thoughts on his party’s alliance with BSP, AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal’s entry and other issues. Excerpts:

Why should people vote for the Shiromani Akali Dal-Bahujan Samaj Party alliance?

People vote on the basis of two factors: first, credibility based on past performance and, second, which party and leader best represent local concerns, culture and identity. On both counts, the SAD is not just the best option but the only one.

Our past performance gives us the confidence to challenge our opponents to point out a single issue we promised but didn’t deliver: from free power for farmers and Shagun scheme for Dalits and poor families, to free meritorious schools for the brilliant poor students.

Developing a network of four- and six-lane expressways, ending the era of electricity cuts and making Punjab a power-surplus State, building domestic and International airports, preserving heritage through projects like Viraste Khalsa, Ram Tirath and world-class Harmandar Sahib ambience uplift or governance reforms with ‘Suvidha’ Centres in rural and urban areas, plus a lot more — we always delivered on what we promised. That lends credibility to our promises for future.

You have been a five-time Chief Minister. What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

Preserving peace and communal harmony despite tough and extreme challenges in our border State — that, without a doubt, is my most satisfying achievement. Peace and communal harmony are dearest to me and my party, as we are driven by the vision of “ Sarbat da Bhala ” (welfare and well-being of all) set forth before us by the great Guru Sahiban, saints and seers.

On the practical plane, nothing can be achieved without peace and communal harmony. Relations among different communities always remained fraternal as I led in this from the front by setting examples through my personal conduct and style of governance based on passionate commitment to secular values.

How do you assess the Congress government’s work in Punjab? How do you rate new Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi’s performance?

Too much gimmickry and too little substance for my comfort. I think he [Charanjit Singh Channi] wasted a great opportunity by resorting to tantrums that do not behove a dignified post of Chief Minister. You cannot and must not reduce governance to a circus joke.

Do you think that registering an FIR in the drugs case against Mr. Bikram Singh Majithia will adversely affect the poll prospects of the SAD?

On the contrary, repression has always boosted our morale. The more they try to repress the Akali spirit, the more powerfully it will rebound against our oppressors. You have seen how Bikram [Majithia] has responded to the challenge: by challenging their [Congress] president [Navjot Singh Sidhu] in his home constituency in Amritsar.

That should tell everyone something about how people have reacted to this false case and how quickly and boldly has the Akali-BSP alliance picked up the gauntlet. Repression always re-energises us to fight back.

The SAD parted ways with the BJP on farm laws. Now that the laws have been repealed, are there any possibilities for the SAD and the BJP coming together after the elections?

A lot has happened since then. People have moved on.

What is your take on the SAD (Sanyukt)-PLC-BJP alliance?

I am no one to comment on how others will perform, but I can tell you that the SAD-BSP alliance is heading towards a most decisive mandate in its favour. Apart from our own positivity and strengths, everything our opponents are doing is working to our advantage.

There have been repeated sacrilege incidents/attempts at a time when elections are around the corner. How do you react to it?

My question here is a very simple one. Is an act or acts of sacrilege of Shri Guru Granth Sahib or other scriptures less important if it happens during the regime of our opponents? Why is there no hue and cry against it now? Why is the government and even the Aam Aadmi Party keeping mum over it now? Shri Guru Granth Sahib Maharaj and other scriptures and shrines are just as sacred and sacrilege against them just as unforgivable as under any regime. Then why are they not even bothered about it now.

I have a feeling that they just want to keep the sacrilege issue alive and it must be inquired through an independent agency as to who is behind all this orchestrated sequence of events.

Why have you raked up the issue of the release of Devinderpal Singh Bhullar now when elections are barely three weeks away?

Have we raked it up? Why do you say this? There is irrefutable evidence that Arvind Kejrival is defying the orders of the Honourable Supreme Court and the Government of India and is refusing to release Mr. Bhullar just to polarise the voters in Punjab along communal lines. He won’t succeed. He is trying to negate the teachings of the great Guru Sahiban, saints and seers on the soil that belongs to them— Punjab—and where their spirit of human brotherhood, secular ideals, peace and communal harmony permeates the air.

He won’t succeed in his bid to communally polarise Punjab. In Punjab, we love one another, regardless of our religious affiliations, too much for any evil force to succeed in setting us apart. Punjab will remain united despite these conspiracies of sacrilege and now this deliberate defiance of Supreme Court orders on Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar, who has already completed his punishment term and is in an extremely critical state of health.

Aam Aadmi Party supremo Arvind Kejriwal has been seeking votes surrounding “ Ik Moka Kejriwal Nu ” [Give once chance to Kejriwal]. What is your take on this?

All I can say is that no matter how much I love the entire country and each and people of every State, I won’t consider it appropriate to ask my Bengali or Tamil or Bihari brethren to give me “a moka ” (opportunity) over and above the leaders from their own States who have lived with them, struggled with them, fought for them and whom they know much more closely than they know me.

If I don’t even know Bengali and Tamil languages, do you think I expect Bengalis or Tamil people to even listen to me if I insist on speaking only in Punjabi without bothering even to learn their mother tongue? Kejriwal has not even shown so much respect to Punjabis as to learn their mother tongue before seeking a moka [opportunity] from them. What do you think? Is it even fair or logical or sane?

How is SAD reaching out to people amid the COVID-19 curbs?

I must be frank with you. These things are looked after by the party president and he is an educated man with a mix of traditional religious outlook on the one hand and a completely modern mindset on technology on the other. I am sure he and the rest of the party are handling it the way it needs to be handled.

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Printable version | May 17, 2022 3:58:46 am | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/punjab-assembly/punjab-assembly-election-sad-bsp-alliance-heading-towards-decisive-mandate-in-its-favour-says-parkash-singh-badal/article38344236.ece