Former Chief of Army Staff Gen JJ Singh has been fielded by the Shiromani Akali Dal against Punjab Congress president Capt Amarinder Singh from Patiala Urban assembly constituency, a seat which the latter himself and his wife have won four times in a row since 2002. JJ Singh has joined the SAD just two days back but while speaking to DailyPost Assistant Editor Rajay Deep he sounds quite confident in claiming that he would certainly defeat his rival as the incumbent family has lost ground-level connect with the masses in the assembly. Here are the excerpts:
After serving the nation as Chief of Army Staff, I was also appointed Governor of Arunachal Pradesh for five years, the term of which ended in 2013. The allurement to enter politics was not external but internal as I wanted to perform my third innings and that too in a challenging way.
You were elevated to the top Army position in UPA government and then again it was the Congress-led UPA that appointed you Governor in 2008. So, why this NDA ally Shiromani Akali Dal now?
First of all, I was appointed the Chief of Army Staff due to my caliber not as an undue favour. I was the senior most in the Army that time with also carrying all prestigious medals on the chest. And when I was selected for the position of Governor, it was a call from the Home Minister side that the Union Government wanted me to perform another challenging role. Being a true soldier I can firmly say that I sought no favour from anyone in the Congress or the UPA. So joining the SAD is my freewill.
Captain Amarinder Singh terms you a paratrooper. What is your take on that?
He is free to say anything but let me clear my position. I am not a paratrooper. After independence and partition in August 1947, my family was migrated to Patiala. I spent my early life on this land and the memories are still alive. It is for what I wanted to contest from Patiala only. In fact, it will be a payback gesture on my part if I do something good for this city as a legislator.
Having a wonderful experience of heading the whole of Army staff, will you be able to connect yourself with commoners at ground level?
Why not? As I told you that I am connected to this city since my childhood and as an army officer I have never discriminated with people from any class or creed. Hailing from a humble family of which three generations have served the country as armymen, you will see how rapidly people start finding me connected with their basic issues.
People are excited to see a fight between a Captain and a General with Captain also claiming to create history by defeating the General.
It’s good if people are excited but let me correct my rival that his dream is not going to be fulfilled. A power intoxicated royal Amarinder Singh who had left the Army just after one-and-a-half-year of service citing an emotional excuse has lost his connect with the masses. People here feel as if they didn’t have a legislator to redress their grievances as Amarinder was never accessible. Moreover, the candidates who opposed him in the political battle proved weak in front of his aura. It is for the first time that he is going to have a fight with a man above his rank and position. Anyways, keeping my previous position aside, I will fight this battle as a grandson of a soldier and I am sure people will vote for a change in Patiala.
Do you carry any personal grudge against Captain Amarinder Singh?
In 2012, when I learnt that he was all set to form the government as reports were coming in his favour, I opted to congratulate him (finding him as my former colleague) in advance but his over-confident coterie citing one reason or the other never let me have word with him. I was irked of it but after few days when I found that he lost, I realised that God saved me from an embarrassment. Now when I opted to take on him in Vidhan Sabha polls, I carry no personal grouse but one thing which disturbs me is his aristocratic style that too because he never gave time to the people who made him win for numerous times.
When despite all flaws in his personality, people kept on voting for him in the past. How do you think to change voters’ mindset this time?
Now with each passing day people are realising that they wanted someone better than this Captain. They are accepting me due to my credentials. People know that in any case Amarinder is not going to see them again, whether he wins or loses. So, they see me as a hope to get listened to. Moreover, while touring the constituency I am also observing that the whole field is lying unexplored where people want to see a man who can sit beside them without any clout. And as I can see the love and affection in their eyes for me, I am sure that this Patiala Royal, whom I don’t even find a real Captain, will have to leave his “Qila” this time.
Immediately after you were announced SAD candidate, a front of ex-servicemen launched front against you.
It hardly matters to me as I know the real story which is related to their political interests. Through your paper, I also wish to make it clear that there are hundreds of such fronts of the ex-servicemen in the country. Majority of them have their political leanings so if one group or the other speaks against anyone, it hardly makes any difference as there are lot many groups which are favouring you.
What does “Sampooran Fateh” mean, a slogan you coined?
It means complete victory. After winning battles in Army now I will expose this so-called Captain, who never worked as a soldier in the battalion but simply got the rank and served as ADC to the then Army Commander. Under the mission “Sampooran Fateh” I will defeat Amarinder from Patiala and the SAD-BJP alliance will form the government for third consecutive term.
Don’t you think that you are making derogatory statements against your former colleague?
I am just telling the truth and I am ready to prove it anywhere. As you have asked, I wish to add one more thing. He claims to have written books but I know the reality. He gets the major job done by others. His last book was written by General Shergill, whom he had appointed Chairman of the Public Service Commission of Punjab. So it was all a Quid Pro Quo. Had Amarinder too suffered a bullet like me, I would always salute him. We have an esteemed example of Brigadier Sawai Bhawani Singh who despite being a scion of Maharaja family of Jaipur kept on serving the Army and got Mahavir Chakkra for his services but this Congress candidate from Patiala is altogether different man.
Amarinder is a well-experienced politician and you are just a fresher into this arena. What special strategy you have that gives you confidence within?
I have not come with single point strategy. These decisions will be taken as per the requirement in the days ahead. One thing I have observed that people don’t want big rallies here. They want an outreach programme and a person who visits them personally. Having felt the pulse I am doing that. I am meeting people from all walks of life. Though my name as the party candidate is announced just now, I am way ahead in campaigning if one compares with Amarinder Singh, who has hardly ever given ear to people of Patiala. Rest is in the hand of God.