‘Bargari upsurge shows urgency to deliver justice’
Justice delivery is not like fast food. Action will be taken even if there is political cost. We can’t leave this wound festering. ON TIME-FRAME FOR ACTION No party president has enjoyed the kind of equation I enjoy with the CM. He indulges me and is open to my suggestions. ON TIES WITH AMARINDER The Badals are not the Akali Dal. If a vote on most unpopular persons of Punjab is held today, they will win hands down. ON SHIROMANI AKALI DAL
You seem to be reflecting the ground sentiment. But are chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh and you on the same page on the issue?
My role is to be a bridge between the party and the government. I can express what should be done. The CM is well aware of the ground sentiment. It is just a matter of when the action will be taken.
There is a perception in your party that action against the Badals will backfire politically. What’s your take?
I will pitch for action against anyone who is a perpetrator of this crime whether they have actively participated or not. I want to expose how the Panth was used and abused by Sukhbir. We will be doing disservice to the people of Punjab if we indulge in a political cost-benefit analysis on this issue. If we go by public sentiment, they (Badals) should be in jail as people are baying for their blood.
Are you in favour of action against former DGP Sumedh Singh Saini? Some feel it would demoralise the police.
I’m in favour of action against anybody who ordered the firing, as long as it stands the scrutiny of courts. The law does not work on popular sentiment. If the SIT finds someone guilty, they should face the music. It’s not a matter of popular perception on how the action will impact police morale. If there is culpability, then be it Saini, Badal or Sukhbir, nobody is above the law.
In the initial days of the Bargari protests, your party was seen romancing with radicals; a replay of the tricks that the Congress played in the ’80s to checkmate the Akalis. The government woke up only last week.
The Congress is not dabbling with radicals. Some Congress leaders were meeting them only to urge them to lift the dharna.
Hasn’t the sacrilege issue overshadowed the governance agenda and the promises your party made?
Right now, it tops the agenda. Resolving this situation will give time for other issues. This situation has potential to disturb law and order. We need to deal with this before we move to the promises.
How true is the perception that you are not having your way with the chief minister?
It’s not about having my way. It
Why should the Congress that prides itself as secular be obsessed about the religious issue of sacrilege?
This issue is not just about the Panth. It is about those who projected themselves as protectors of faith but backstabbed the faith. It’s an administrative issue and a criminal act. We are trying to fix responsibility. Sacrilege is a religious issue but doing justice does not make our agenda Panthic.
Your strategy seems more against the Badals than the Akali Dal?
It’s only after I spoke against Sukhbir that all these Taksali Akalis (old guard) came out against him. The Akal Takht pardon to Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim was ordered by Sukhbir. Did he take permission from Akal Takht to negotiate with the dera before the pardon? As a Sikh and head of a Panthic party, Sukhbir is answerable to the Akal Takht. But I have every right to ask the then home minister why
was peace in
Badals are synonymous with the Akali Dal. Doesn’t weakening moderate Akalis run the risk of bolstering radicals?
The Badals are not the Akali Dal. Sukhbir has made it Sukhbir Akali Dal. He has changed the very DNA of the party. It has been commercialised. The Akalis who shared stage with Sukhbir at Abohar and other rallies were not Taksali Akalis. Sukhbir gave prominence to ‘kamau putts (earning sons)’, the ones who were running sand, liquor, drug and land mafia. The real Akali Dal will come out now. The idea is to save the Akali Dal from the Badals, particularly Sukhbir. I foresee two things. First, as a last-ditch effort, Badal saab will offer a red herring to placate senior leaders by sidelining Bikram Singh Majithia. Second, he will take over the party’s reins even at this age. But Taksali leaders have seen through his game. If they have to save the Akali Dal, they have to rescue it from Sukhbir.
The Akalis’ accuse the Congress of trying to capture the SGPC by propping up radicals.
We are a secular party and don’t interfere in religious issues. But we also have Sikhs in the Congress. Only the Badals believe that anyone in the Congress is not a Sikh. But they are as much Sikhs as anybody else and have the right on the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee. The party will not dabble in gurdwara politics. Sukhbir has corrupted the entire system. People will dislodge the
Badals from the SGPC.
What is your take on rebel Aam Aadmi Party leader Sukhpal Khaira’s attempts to piggyback on the Bargari sentiment?
The Bargari morcha organisers have already disassociated themselves from Khaira and his 15-day ultimatum to the government. These kind of opportunistic moves don’t lead anywhere. The Bargari movement is a matter of faith. They will see through anyone trying to capitalise on it politically.
How will you rate the government’s performance?
The biggest handicap is the legacy of mindset after 10 years of Badal rule. The administration thinks the govenments run on whims and fancies. The mindset of the bureaucracy has to change. We are doing the best we can even with the financial crunch.
Congress workers are not upbeat.
The workers carry the burden of the manifesto promises we made to people. Voters come to them. There are issues that need to be resolved. The situation is getting better. The bureaucracy is still working under the influence of the Akalis. It is taking time to change their mind set that they are not here to further commercial interests of a party but to serve people. The CM is aware of it.
There is a sense of unease among urban voters over the Bargari blowup.
It will be best service to the urban voter that we create an environment conducive for investment. Development cannot be held hostage to this issue. It needs to be settled for good. Otherwise, its shadow will loom over Punjab. Our cities are like slums. Villages are no better. We have a lot to do.