‘Capt using Covid crisis to silence Opposition’
The Congress govt does not want to hear the voice of people or talk to MLAS. They just want a two-hour assembly session. We cannot leave the people at their mercy HARPAL SINGH CHEEMA, leader of opposition
CHANDIGARH: A pale shadow of its former self, the AAP is in protest mode to try and regain the lost political ground, taking on the Amarinder Singh government over hooch deaths, liquor smuggling, and illegal mining. The principal opposition party was hoping to corner the government during the monsoon session but the decision to truncate the assembly session to one day has it fuming. With the session just three days away, Leader of Opposition (LOP) Harpal Singh Cheema spoke to HT about the state government’s handling of the pandemic, role of the opposition parties, and the AAP’S bid to rebuild itself. Excerpts:
How do you think the state government has handled the pandemic?
They (government) have failed to handle the situation and lacked planning and consistency. When the coronavirus situation was not alarming and positive cases had just started trickling in, the government put lots of restrictions. Now, when the Covid-19 cases are seeing a spike, several relaxations have been given. Secondly, the government failed to strengthen the health infrastructure during the curfew-lockdown period. Also, transparency is the biggest casualty.
Has the govt consulted or taken the opposition into confidence?
I requested the CM’S office several times for an appointment with him (Amarinder), but they did not oblige. I even wrote to him and am still to get a reply. The CM is not willing to listen to any suggestion. He could have held a virtual meeting, but they just want the opposition to keep quiet.
Why do you keep asking Punjab to follow the ‘Delhi model’?
Test, tracing, and treatment hold the key to dealing with Covid-19. We (AAP govt) did this on a large scale in Delhi which was the hardest hit at one stage, but things are under control there even
AAP leaders have been accused of giving preference to politics over precaution and holding protests despite the curbs. What do you have to say?
Govt does not want to hear the voice of people or talk to LOP and other MLAS. They just want a two-hour assembly session. We cannot leave the people at their mercy. We have to hold protests to raise public issues. Govt cannot be allowed to use Covid-19 to forget the fundamental principles of democracy or hide their failures. All they talk about is Mission Fateh. They could have used this money to build a hospital instead of putting up hoardings for advertisement.
What issues are you going to focus on during the session?
Besides Covid-19, there are many other burning issues such as spurious liquor, illegal mining, seed scam, GST evasion, unemployment, and neglect of SCS. The CM is the minister in-charge of departments where several of these irregularities have taken place. We will meet the assembly speaker with a request to extend the duration of the session and also live telecast of the proceedings.
There is a feeling that AAP has lost the perception game in Punjab. Your take...
We are restructuring the organisational set-up shortly. There is a strong undercurrent as we are the only party out in the field against the Capt government. The Shiromani Akali Dal, on the other hand, is nowhere to be seen.
AAP is limited to Malwa with little presence in Majha and Doaba. What are you doing about it?
The party is setting up offices in Majha and Doaba regions. Special duties are also being assigned to strengthen the set-up in these two regions. We have already taken the lead in raising issues of public importance there.