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Punjab

Nothing wrong with children of a political family coming into politics’-BADAL

May 13, 2019 06:54 AM

COURTESY TIMES OF INDIA MAY 13


With just a week of campaigning left for Lok Sabha polls in Punjab, TOI's Sarju Kaul & Sanjeev Verma met Shiromani Akali Dal patron Parkash Singh Badal, who has taken it slow this election. He has largely been campaigning in Lambi assembly segment for his daughter-in-law Harsimrat Kaur Badal, who is seeking re-election from Bathinda. Speaking in his office at his Badal village residence, even as a huge crowd of people waited to meet him, Badal says there is no anger against his party over sacrilege incidents
You have been campaigning for the Lok Sabha polls. Do you see the same anger against SAD that was there in the 2017 assembly elections?

There is no anger against the Akali Dal, we will win by a thumping majority. There was never any anger against us. At the time, there was a wave for the Aam Aadmi Party, people were very enthusiastic. The Akali Dal was not involved in any incident of sacrilege. Sometimes these incidents occur — some happened under the Congress government and some under our government. It’s not as if the government has done them. It’s all propaganda.


About sacrilege and the violence linked to these incidents and the police firing.

Noting happened, it is all the vindictiveness of the Congress. Till now, there hasn’t been a chief minister as vindictive as Amarinder Singh. They think they can suppress us by imprisoning us. This is a habit of these Raja-Maharajas. I am not against the royalty, I have no anger against them. He (Amarinder) has been a member of the Akali Dal, he even was a minister in an Akali government — at the time the Akali Dal was very good in his opinion. It so happened that when Amarinder was seeking a ticket and I was the party president and I couldn’t give him as there were already claimants for that seat. I have no issue against anyone, I respect everyone, I love everyone.

The Election Commission moved IGP Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh as member of special investigation team (SIT) which is probing sacrilege and police firing incidents at Behbal Kalan and Kotkapura. The CM sees this as a conspiracy.

The Election Commission is a constitutional body that takes action on merit, it doesn’t work on my directions. I don’t know who the members of the EC are, I haven’t even seen their faces. The EC saw merit in the proof and transferred him. The transfer was such a small thing. He is just a member of the SIT, the rest of the team, including the head of the SIT, are still working. He (Amarinder) says when the officer is back, he will nab the Badals. This has made their intention very clear — it was never fair. The government just wants to destroy our reputation and get us arrested. It does not affect us.

You have been allied with BJP for over two decades and with the Jan Sangh way earlier than that. What is your equation with the BJP leaders? Both PM Modi and Amit Shah took your blessings by touching your feet before filing their nominations this time.

It is their greatness that made them do so. I had a great relationship with Vajpayeeji and Advaniji. There was a lot of mutual regard and respect among us and there still is with the leaders now. The Akali Dal does not change allies due to political ups and down, which are part of life anyway, and that’s why we have stood with the BJP since then.

The Akali Dal and BJP don’t have a political alliance, it is an ideological alliance. It’s like the close relationship between nails and skin, like the two eyes. We basically work for the interest of the Akali Dal-BJP alliance and this alliance works for the interests of the country.

The Akali Dal has struggled the most for Punjabi Suba movement and for the country. I was imprisoned by the Congress government on political issues for 15 years after India got Independence.

You were an MP for a very short time after the Emergency. What prompted you to contest parliamentary elections at the time?

I don’t have any personal ambition, I am here because of the people’s wishes. All the prominent Akali Dal leaders at the time decided to contest the Lok Sabha elections held in 1977 after the Emergency. And all of us won. I also was a Union minister (for agriculture) in the Morarji Desai government (He was Union minister for three months and was replaced by Surjit Singh Barnala). It was a coalition of all anti-Congress forces and we were a part of it. I had a short stint because people of Punjab wanted me back and I became the chief minister for the second time (This stint lasted for eight months as the coalition government led by Badal was dismissed in February 1980).

You came up in politics the hard way — you started as a sarpanch, then an MLA and an MP in between. How do you react to the children of veteran politicians who join politics without any experience and then contest as MPs? We have seen many such cases this time.

Any political party nominates a person for election after great deliberation. They nominate the person they consider the best candidate, it has nothing to do with age or experience. The political parties give tickets based on their understanding. My personal experience is different. Take the example of Modiji and (US President Abraham) Lincoln, who made it from a log hut to the White House. Even Modiji rose through the ranks like that.

BJP has been very vocal about its opposition to dynastic power. The same thing applies to the SAD. What do you have to say?

Isn’t it there in the Congress? See you are a journalist and if your children become journalists, is that something wrong? There is certain ambience at home and naturally children of a political family keep in touch with people. There is nothing wrong in this. It is the people and the party which ultimately choose them, not the family.

Do you agree that within the party many leaders say that we do not get a chance and there is control of a single family?

There is no such control. Party has delegates and they further choose the president. There is no such thing like someone being paradropped. This is the system being followed by every party. I don’t say that they (the Congress) have made Rahul Gandhi its president. It is the decision of the party.

Many civil groups are getting together against the control of SAD on the religious institutions like SGPC. Do you think it is correct?

This is not control. It is a democratically-elected body. Elections are held in a democratic process and the Akali Dal gives tickets to its candidates. They (Congress) have tried their best to get the control (of SGPC) by hook or crook. But the public or the Sikh Sangat never wants the Congress which had attacked the Harmandar Sahib, orchestrated genocide and bloodshed in 1984. How can the control of gurdwaras be given to the Congress? This is their dream. They have tried it numerous times, even forcibly, but failed.

But even civil society leaders, like senior Supreme Court advocate H S Phoolka, have made these claims.

Phoolka has no ground. You will see after the elections, we will get a majority. Once even Mann sahib (Simranjit Singh Mann) had to taste defeat. This is false propaganda by them. There are some militant-type people. They only cause harm and no benefit.

The Akali Dal has seen a lot of splits over the last almost 100 years. Your old comrade Gurcharan Sigh Tohra too had split and formed his own party. How do you view the attempts to create new political parties to represent Sikhs?

The Congress’s political policy in Punjab is divide and rule. They are dividing people on the basis of religion and they try to take away people from the Akali Dal. They tried it numerous times, but to no avail. But now you will see none of those people will win. There is not a single person who is fighting. This is how it is. It makes no difference. If tomorrow I leave the Akali Dal not even a person would come to meet me. Party is supreme.

Do you seriously feel so despite being one of the tallest leaders?

Oho…if I lose my senses. I am tallest leader when I am in my senses. People respect me because I stood firm when I was facing hardships. Who will respect if I will go here and there? People are mature.

In Bathinda, one of the opponents of Harsimrat Badal is Sukhpal Singh Khaira. He is running a strong campaign. What is your take?

Everyone campaigns strongly. But after this election, they will vanish. His (Khaira’s) father was a very senior leader in the Akali Dal. Earlier, he himself was in the Akali Dal and then shifted to the Congress, then to AAP. Such party hoppers do not have any morals. Morals are a big thing.

Most of the political parties, including SAD, have given Lok Sabha tickets to their sitting MLAs. In case they win, it would lead to assembly bypolls. Is it unnecessary burden on the common man?

See, I am frankly against the party hoppers. But these people who have come (AAP leaders), they do not have any political background. They came and just disappeared like bubbles, now some went here and some there.

But what about those sitting MLAs who have been offered tickets by the parties?

I know everything. Like Khaira, he should have been disqualified. He left the party which gave him the ticket. But they are conniving with the Congress. Otherwise the speaker could have disqualified him within a day.

If Sukhbir Singh Badal, who is a sitting MLA, wins in Ferozepur, there would have to be an assembly bypoll.

No issues. No issues. It is the decision of the party. It does whatever it feels right or better for it. To ho jayenge (elections). Kya phark padta ha. Kya financial burden?

No party or candidate is talking about the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal issue in this election.

See, new issues come. There is new talk. You see three prime ministers of the Congress were against Punjab. Initially, Jawahar Lal Nehru was there. He was very respectable. Main kisi ki jaat main nahi jata. But what he has done against Punjab. Punjab was to become a state on linguistic basis. Punjab was denied, with (Nehru) saying Punjab meri laash par banega, aur ye jo mangte hain inke dimag me rahega. This is a matter of record. Our case had merit. Nobody can tell us that we have ever made any wrong demand. Then came Indira Gandhiji who attacked Harmandar Sahib. There could have been some other method. Apna bhi nuksan kiya aur logon ka bhi nuksan kiya. Then came her (Indira’s) son (Rajiv Gandhi). He also made a mistake. A large number of Sikhs were murdered, and he said jab darakht girta ha to dharti hilti hai. He also made a mistake by sending forces to Sri Lanka. All the three PMs of this family did damage to Punjab.

You broke the alliance with INLD in Haryana because of the SYL issue. But now you are supporting BJP in Haryana for the Lok Sabha elections despite Haryana fighting in the Supreme Court against Punjab on the same SYL issue.

We have had relations with the BJP. That time also we had a talk with them. Each state has its own interests. They have their own interest and we have our own interest. They can pursue their own interest. Hamara ye to nahin ki mar jaenge hum. This is there in some issues and not in others.

You have served as Punjab chief minister five times. What is immediately needed in Punjab?

I never miss to visit any such house in my constituency where there is a death in the family, even poorest of the poor. There I come to know… 80% of such deaths happen in poor families because they do not even have proper houses to live in. Neither can they afford nutritious food nor healthcare. I want that medical facilities should be absolutely free and maximum fund should be given to health sector. There would be no hue and cry if the construction of roads is delayed by two to four years. Cancer is such a disease that even a rich man can’t easily afford its treatment costing Rs 15-20 lakh at least. How will the poor person get the treatment? There should be focus on eradicating poverty.

So, there should be more hospitals and medical centres?

There should be free medical treatment for everyone. Not that you open small medical centres, but there should be big hospitals with quality treatment. If the government cannot help people in medical treatment, then it is of no use.

Since many regional parties have expanded into other states but the oldest regional party in the country - the SAD - has remained mainly confined to Punjab. Your comments.

Initially, the Akali Dal was constituted by Sikhs. We are considering (expansion). In Delhi, there is Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee and we win its elections. We will contest in the next assembly elections. In Haryana, we have our MP Charanjit Singh Rori in alliance with INLD.

Even Maharashtra has good concentration of Sikhs. Would Maharashtra be next stop?

We will decide as per the situation and opportunity.

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