‘Capt us­ing Covid cri­sis to si­lence Op­po­si­tion’

Hindustan Times (Chandigarh) - - Htpunjab - Navneet Sharma

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.

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