Manpreet Singh Badal, chief of the People’s Party of Punjab (PPP) which had allied with the Congress for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, speaks to Divya Goyal on the road ahead with Capt Amarinder Singh having taken over the Punjab Congress. Excerpts from the interview:
Captain Amarinder Singh is now PPCC president. Have you got an invite for his ‘Badlav Rally’ in Bathinda on December 15? If yes, will you be attending?
People must understand that I am from the PPP and not the Congress. I have no role to play in the internal issues and rallies of the Congress. There has been no invite yet but we are always open to an alliance with the Congress. If a invite does come, I will discuss it with our central committee and then decide on whether to attend or not.
The PPP struck an alliance with the Congress when the latter was under former president Partap Singh Bajwa. With the change of guard in the Congress, how will it affect the rapport between the two parties?
Captain Amarinder Singh is the leader I respect the most. He is such an amazing person that even his rivals cannot deny how charismatic he is. I share an excellent rapport with Captain and what I admire the most is his boldness and fair attitude. He has no hesitation in speaking the truth. So, it is an exciting road ahead. I shared an equally comfortable relationship with Bajwa but I have a different kind of respect for Captain. He is a personality apart. Moreover, he is a clean leader.
PPP had kindled hope in Punjab. People expected relief from the ruling Badals through another Badal. Why did things not work out ?
It is wrong to see the performance of a new party on the basis of MLAs and MPs. PPP has set a national agenda. We were way ahead in our ideology than other parties. We spoke of having Jan Lokpals in every district even before AAP talked of it. So as it is said ‘jo waqt se aage nikal jaate hain wo tanha reh jaate hain’ is what happened with us. We were too ahead in our ideology. Getting 7 per cent of the vote share in out first attempt was no small deal. Then contesting from Bathinda, where the ruling family displayed brazen hooliganism is a big achievement. We have done fairly well and I am completely satisfied.
But then why did you choose to contest on a Congress ticket from Bathinda?
A fake Manpreet Badal was made to contest polls at the behest of the ruling Badals. Even our kite symbol was allotted to him. He had no documents to prove his identity but the administration favoured him. So, instead of choosing an unpopular symbol, it was appropriate to go for the ‘hand.’ I must say, we had an excellent experience with Congress as alliance partners and we are open to it again in 2017.
Are you open to an alliance with the Aam Aadmi Party too? You had said earlier that you share some common ideology.
It is written in the AAP constitution that they will not enter into any alliance. There are no good parties or bad parties, they are all driven by agendas. It is only the people associated who turn bad. I feel parties are like dharam (religions). They never teach you anything wrong, only people turn them wrong. Congress is a secular party. SAD-BJP are communal and thus PPP will never go with them.
You started as an Akali. How do you feel using the ‘Badal’ surname?
I feel ashamed. Badal has become synonymous with corruption and lawlessness in Punjab. I feel sad. Sukhbir Badal ne saada naam badnaam kar ditta hai. (Sukhbir Badal has defamed our name).
Any message for your uncle (CM Parkash Singh Badal) on his birthday?
(Laughs) Even this is fraud. We are family and I know it is not his birthday today. As I said, Badal is now synonymous with lies and shams. Even my father (Gurdas Singh Badal) doesn’t know when he was born.