As the 14th Punjab Vidhan Sabha is scheduled to have its 13th session on September 5-9, DailyPost Assistant Editor Rajay Deep interviews the Leader of Opposition Charanjit Singh Channi, a Congress MLA from Chamkaur Sahib. During the freewheeling round of questioning, Channi maintains patience and takes things in his stride. Here are the excerpts:
How do you personally evaluate your eight-month performance as CLP leader?
I have been toiling hard for the betterment of the party. I feel that the responsibility I have been assigned with, I am putting my best to justify that. I tour the whole state and it is all to strengthen the party.
Do you have feedback that party cadre finds you a weak leader in comparison to your predecessor Sunil Jakhar?
It may be a biased opinion of the persons whom you contacted to collect the feedback. Otherwise, I keep on meeting the party cadre quite frequently. They are all very happy with my performance. I raised the SC issues with full force at every possible front.
There is a feeling that you were appointed to the position just by virtue of being a Dalit face. Is it true?
It may be true that I have been given this important assignment of leading the party in Vidhan Sabha being a Dalit, but it is untrue that I was chosen just for being a Dalit. Projecting an SC face may be the party’s strategy to boost Dalit community, but among all Dalit MLAs if I have been selected there might certainly be some good points about me.
What issues are you going to take up in the last Vidhan Sabha session, scheduled for next month?
Law and order, corruption at grass root level and drugs among youth are the key issues which we will be taking up. Besides, there is another serious issue-ignoring the Schedule Caste people for prime posting-which I will raise in the Vidhan Sabha. In most of the Commissions, including the Public Service Commission and Information Commission, there is no SC member.
So you favour such postings to be caste-based, not calibre-based?
No. It’s not like this. These prime postings should always be calibre-based but there should be no biasness in selecting the candidates. There is, in fact, a group of people who have mutually decided to rule and their click is so string that they are always successful in bending things according to suitability.
You speak about corruption at grass root level. Do you see the government’s new initiative of opening Sewa Kendras as a right step in this direction?
No way. If one asks me, I will strongly say that these are the corruption ‘addas’. People are being looted there. The fees for services being offered there are so exorbitant that common man finds it an unnecessary burden from which one is unable to get rid of now. The staff being recruited there also doesn’t fulfil the required criteria.
In the previous Vidhan Sabha session, when you counted the road patch work as the major achievement of Captain Amarinder Singh’s govt in Punjab, it didn’t go down well. What is your take on that?
It was a distorted representation of the facts. I had not said as it was circulated through media and social media. I had spoken many things but the ruling party having ‘privilege’ to procure any of the data proceedings from Vidhan Sabha edited it to its suitability and ran it to damage my image.
Where do you foresee the party standing in the coming assembly polls?
The Congress is doing very well. It will definitely come to power.
Punjab Congress is plagued with infighting and it is an open secret now. Will you people be able to tackle it in the polls?
This infighting or bickering is the thing of past. Such things would have certainly happened in the party but for past six-seven months there is no such menace in the party. We are working jointly to ensure the victory this time.
Who is the main rival of your party-the SAD or the AAP?
Obviously, the Shiromani Akali Dal as it is an established party that has all resources and systems in place with also having experience of politics. But the SAD will not be able to win this time as people are repenting for making them win in 2012. About AAP, I am clear that the bubble that was created has burst now as they have run away from the ideology and the corruption prevails at every level. The only fear I have is of AAP’s MP Bhagwant Mann as in 2012, when he was in PPP, his gestures facilitated the SAD to form the government. And now in AAP with his jokes, he is again trying to make the state suffer the same loss.
People have already accepted Captain Amarinder as CM candidate from Congress, but when will it be announced?
It is the prerogative of the AICC. But on my part, I can say that we all want to see him as the CM candidate as he has the potential to rule the state. Giving due respect to his stature, I am hopeful that party will soon declare him the CM candidate.
The poll strategist Prashant Kishor has put the Patiala Royal on his toes. Do you see the impact of his strategies?
Kishor is doing good in Punjab but the impact of his strategies will be seen only in the elections. Once the results are out, we will evaluate how successful were the components he introduced.
Rajinder Kaur Bhattal and Manpreet Singh Badal seem to be in a virtual tussle of one-upmanship. What is the reality?
The two leaders are in the party’s manifesto committee. Bhattal is heading that committee, so there is no doubt over the position of the two.
Have the party workers accepted working along the former SAD minister Manpreet Singh Badal?
Manpreet Singh Badal is an experienced man. He left Shiromani Akali Dal after realising the party was not good for Punjab. The mistake he committed was of forming the PPP. He should have immediately come into the Congress fold. Anyways, as he is now whole-heartedly dedicated to the party, there is no complaint of discomfort in working with him from the party workers’ side.
As three separate surveys are being conducted to assess the calibre of the party candidates, don’t you think that different surveys will again put you all in a yet another conflict of prestige?
Yes, one of those three surveys is being conducted by an agency on my behalf. But let me clarify that we know our profile. The CLP is working under the PPCC and PPCC is working under the AICC. All surveys and reports are aimed to facilitate the high command in selecting the candidates.
AAP has declared its 32 candidates till date, when can one expect the disclosure from Congress side?
We have nothing to do with the AAP list as after Delhi, it is the party of spent force. About the Congress list of candidates, we have decided to inform the decision to the candidates much prior to the formal announcement. Things are in progress and soon the names will be finalised.
Two major grudges against the powers-that-be?
At first, they didn’t check their party leaders and workers being involved in drugs and secondly, CM Parkash Singh Badal did not congratulate me on being appointed the Leader of Opposition, which is against the convention of Vidhan Sabha. And since then, I have kept no social relation with the Badals.
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