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‘Fragmented’ Opposition in no position to defeat Congress in Punjab: Sachin Pilot

He also said the Congress is the best bet to govern a sensitive border state like Punjab while the AAP lacks the depth to do so.

‘Fragmented’ Opposition in no position to defeat Congress in Punjab: Sachin Pilot
Pilot claimed that the AAP does not have the "depth" to govern a sensitive state. (File photo: PTI)

Senior Congress leader Sachin Pilot on Friday exuded confidence that the Congress will again form the government in Punjab, saying the Opposition is “fragmented” with none of the other parties or alliances in a position to get a majority and that the people will not “waste their vote” despite all the “hype” surrounding the challengers. He also said the Congress is the best bet to govern a sensitive border state like Punjab while the AAP lacks the depth to do so.

In an interview with PTI after campaigning in several constituencies in Punjab this week, Pilot said Captain Aamrinder Singh was removed as the chief minister as he had lost the confidence of MLAs and that his new party Punjab Lok Congress (PLC), along with its alliance partners the BJP and Shiromani Akali Dal (Sanyukt), will not have any sort of impact on the March 10 results.

He also said former Union minister Ashwani Kumar’s quitting the party in the middle of poll campaigning will not have any effect on the fortunes of the Congress in any way.

Asked if the Congress was facing high anti-incumbency in Punjab, Pilot answered in the negative and said that especially in the last three-four months of the Congress government with Channi as CM some remarkable steps had been taken on issues such as electricity, water and housing for middle class and farmers, and those had been very well received. “I would like to say Mr. Channi’s last few months of delivery have endeared the Congress government to the people,” he said.

“As far as the Opposition is concerned, for the first time in many decades we have a multi-cornered contest because you have Amarinder Singh’s party tied up with the BJP, BSP is with Akali Dal, there is Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), so the Opposition is fragmented. I don’t think any of these parties or alliances are in a position to form a government or get a majority,” Pilot said. People would not like to waste their vote no matter what the propaganda is or hype is created around the challengers, he said. Pilot exuded confidence that the Congress will get a comfortable majority in the polls.

Stressing that Punjab is a border state and is strategically very important, he said parties and leadership that understand the nuances of governing a border state are the ones the public would repose their trust in.

“Punjab, don’t forget suffered years of militancy and hardships. The Congress came forward, many of our leaders were martyred. I want to remember Beant Singh whose blood is embedded in the land of Punjab. I do want to make the point that Congress, with its long history of governance, is best placed to serve Punjab,” he said. Pilot said the campaign led by the AAP is more about sops and floating “false propaganda”.

In Delhi, the AAP has not been able to deliver what they are promising in Punjab, he alleged. Pilot claimed that the AAP does not have the “depth” to govern a sensitive state.

“Punjab is a sensitive state so one has to be very careful about the choice of government and the people of Punjab know it more than anybody else. In 2017, the same hype was created but at that time there were instances which raised a lot of questions in peoples mind about the kind of people the AAP leadership was said to be associating with,” Pilot said.

Given that five-year-old track record and given that it is a border state with Pakistan, one has to be doubly careful about what sort of leadership they are able to evolve there, said Pilot, who campaigned in several assembly constituencies such as Sangrur, Dhuri, Hoshiarpur and Rupnagar.

The Congress has launched a campaign blitz in the final stretch before the Punjab polls with a battery of senior leaders campaigning extensively led by Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi.

Asked if Amarinder Singh’s sacking months ahead of the polls would have an impact, Pilot said a chief minister is the leader of the legislative party and if the majority of the MLAs of the legislative party want a change then the leadership can do very little.

“That is why the leadership change happened. It was not because of somebody’s likes and dislikes. Most MLAs wanted a change in chief of the legislative party. If you lose the confidence of MLAs and they all come out and say they want a change, the leadership has to do what is to be done,” he said. It is unfortunate that Singh left the party and formed his own party and now has gone on and aligned with the BJP, Pilot said.

“I don’t think this new party (Punjab Lok Congress), formed two months ago, along with the BJP, is going to have any sort of impact on the results that are going to come out on March 10,” Pilot said. He said the BJP itself is a marginal player in Punjab and so the larger partner in the alliance is itself a marginal player, he added.

“I don’t think people would like to give their vote to a party that will not form the government,” Pilot said. Asked if Ashwani Kumar’s exit would impact the party’s chances, he said though Kumar was a minister in the UPA but his exit will not affect the voters’ choice in any way.

“Anybody leaving the party is unfortunate…However, there is no party in India from which people don’t leave or join on the eve of polls. I don’t think it will have any effect on the fortunes of the Congress party,” he asserted.

Pilot said all elections are important but Punjab polls were all the more important because the state is crucial politically and strategically. People want to give Channi a longer time as he has been able to capture people’s imagination, he said. Punjab goes to polls on February 20.

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First published on: 18-02-2022 at 14:38 IST