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‘People will vote Akalis back to power’

They (SAD) were not the main Opposition party after the 2017 polls because first of all being the ruling party between 2007 and 2017, SAD was facing anti-incumbency. Then there was this issue of sacrilege which was drummed up by the Aam Aadmi Party against the Parkash Singh Badal government. They (AAP) were hurling all kinds of vulgarity against Sukhbir Badal (SAD chief ) and his wife (former Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal). The result was that the AAP succeeded in turning people against the Akali Dal

Statesman News Service | New Delhi |

A two-time former Member of Parliament (MP), Harinder Singh Khalsa (74) resigned from the Indian Foreign Service (IFS) to protest ”Operation Bluestar” in 1984. The 74-year-old belongs to a political family in Ludhiana and his father Gopal Singh Khalsa was a prominent Dalit leader. Khalsa joined the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) ahead of the Assembly polls in Punjab. Before that, he had joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of the Lok Sabha elections in 2019. Earlier, Khalsa had been with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which he had joined in 2014. He won that year’s Lok Sabha poll on an AAP ticket from Fatehgarh Sahib before being suspended from the party for alleged anti-party activities. Khalsa also had a stint as the SAD’s MP from Bathinda between 1996 and 1998.

In an interview with Ranjeet Jamwal after rejoining the SAD, Khalsa said the AAP has no chance in Punjab and it’s the SAD which will benefit from AAP’s campaign against the Charanjit Singh Channi-led Congress government in the state.

Excerpts:

Q. Some pre-poll sur veys are showing the AAP being ahead in the Punjab Assembly polls. Do you agree?

A: AAP has no chance in Punjab. Even in 2017, some surveys gave AAP about 100 seats but the party got only 20 seats.

Q. In the multi-cornered contest, it appears no party will gain an absolute majority in Punjab.What’s your view?

A: So far nobody has made up his mind when it comes to deciding which party to vote for. Be it Akali Dal or other parties, they have their vote banks, but the Aam Aadmi Party has no such votes. It’s all a bubble (wave in favour of AAP). So there is no guarantee if this bubble will translate into votes in favour of the AAP. It was the same even in the 2017 Punjab polls when AAP was expecting about 100 seats but got only 20 seats as the bubble in their favour burst. The AAP abused the SAD in the previous Assembly polls but it was the Congress which got the benefit of this campaign against the ruling party (SAD) and secured a majority. In this election too, the Aam Aadmi Party is abusing Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi. People are listening to these abuses without a reaction but will ultimately vote for the Akali Dal.

Q. What made you join the SAD ahead of the Assembly polls?

A: My experience is that the Aam Aadmi Party has no love or affection for Punjab, Punjabis or Punjabi culture. In fact, they (AAP) are totally oblivious to Punjabi culture. People like Raghav Chadha (AAP’s in-charge for Punjab) and even Arvind Kejriwal; my experience is that they are not bothered about Punjab. I will even say they are allergic to things which are very important for us (Punjabis). Kejriwal is anti-Punjab and anti-Sikh. They (AAP) want to exploit us by creating a divide among the Sikhs and Hindus. In a real sense, they want to disturb the communal harmony in Punjab.

Q. What about the Shiromani Akali Dal?

A: Shiromani Akali Dal is a Punjabi party. They (SAD leaders) think about Punjab. They breathe in and breathe out Punjab. They never think about anything else.

Q. In the 2017 polls, the SAD won fewer Assembly seats than the AAP and even failed to become the main Opposition party. What is the change in SAD’s favour this time? Will the SAD be able to regain lost ground in this Assembly polls?

A: They (SAD) were not the main Opposition party after the 2017 polls because first of all being the ruling party between 2007 and 2017, SAD was facing anti-incumbency. Then there was this issue of sacrilege which was drummed up by the Aam Aadmi Party against the Parkash Singh Badal government. They (AAP) were hurling all kinds of vulgarity against Sukhbir Badal (SAD chief ) and his wife (former Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal). The result was that the AAP succeeded in turning people against the Akali Dal. But they (people) never turned in favour of AAP. People listened to the abuses hurled by AAP at the Akali Dal but voted for the Congress. And this time also, the Aam Aadmi Party is abusing Chief Minister Channi instead of the Akalis but the same thing is going to happen in these elections. People will listen to their abuses and relish the campaign against Channi’s alleged corruption but they will ultimately say AAP is no less than the Congress and will vote for the Akali Dal.

Q. With Channi as the first ever scheduled caste (SC) Chief Minister of Punjab, the Congress is hoping to gain support of the nearly 32 per cent SC voters in the state. Do you think this will work?

A: I don’t find any difference between a SC and a non-SC. I am SC so what is the difference between him and me. If by SC you mean downtrodden, then from a downtrodden’s house you don’t recover Rs 10 crore. What kind of a downtrodden he is?