Politics News

Punjab Govt Ignored Centre’s Security Alerts, Should Accept Failure: Gajendra Singh Shekhawat

Ahead of the Punjab assembly elections early next year, law and order and internal security have emerged as key concerns, with incidents of alleged sacrilege followed by the lynching of suspects and a terror attack on a court within almost a week. In an interview with News18, union minister and Bharatiya Janata Party election incharge for the state Gajendra Singh Shekhawat launched a searing attack on the Congress government, saying it overlooked repeated warnings from the Centre. He also took on Rahul Gandhi over the subject of lynching, spoke about his party’s plans for the election, picking a CM face, and how it intends to address key issues of addiction, law and order worries, farmers’ problems and lack of industrialisation, etc, plaguing Punjab. Edited excerpts:

Punjab is not just another border state but is crucial because of the security strategy against Pakistan. The Ludhiana bomb blast incident has rocked Punjab. There is suspected use of RDX. And politics over it has already begun. What does the BJP think of this incident?

It was an unfortunate incident and I express my sympathies towards those who have suffered. The Punjab government was warned by the union home secretary repeatedly about such incidents and was told to secure the courts as well. Unfortunately, the Punjab government did not take this seriously and this incident happened. The central government increased the jurisdiction of BSF in the border state of Punjab as it anticipated such incidents. Unfortunately, this issue too was politicised. Punjab is a sensitive state and the state government needs to be extra vigilant and accept its shortcomings. And to ensure that such events don’t take place in the future, the state government should take immediate action.

What do you make of it? Is there a foreign hand or internal enemies working to sabotage the sovereignty of the country?

These are matters of investigation and I don’t think it would be right to comment just yet. But it is also true that repeated warnings issued by the Centre were not taken seriously by the state. It is the reason why such an incident happened. Had the state government taken it seriously, this blast could have been avoided. The state government should at least accept its failure this time.

Let’s talk about internal threats also. Punjab it seems is sitting on a volcano with sacrilege followed by lynching. What do you make of these incidents? Do you see any conspiracy behind these?

Definitely. These ‘beadbi’ (sacrilege) incidents are no coincidence. Look at the elections five years ago. At that time too these incidents increased and we know one political party’s connection was highlighted during the investigation. I think the state government should investigate whether people of the same political party are trying to disturb the harmony and social fabric of the society.

Do you think that Navjot Singh Sidhu is going to be benefitted if sacrilege issues gain ground? He has been pretty vocal about action on these.

I think there could be nothing more sinister than a ruling party’s state chief finding political gains in such incidents. And if they look at such cases to gain politically then Punjab people should decide what kind of government they want.

Rahul Gandhi says before 2014 the word ‘lynching’ was practically unheard of. ‘Thank you. Modi ji,’ he tweeted…

Rahul Gandhi says he hadn’t heard of the word ‘lynching’ before 2014. It shows their mindset. Be it a Gandhi or Abhishek Manu Singhvi… When hundreds of Sikhs were murdered. wasn’t that lynching? But then they shoved it under the carpet by saying ‘when a big tree falls, the earth shakes’. And when Narendra Modi assumed power in 2014, cases were reopened and influential people found involved were sent to prison. Only then he could understand the meaning of lynching. They will never be freed from the sin of committing independent India’s largest massacre and mob lynching.

Do you think he should focus on his party’s state government?

Rahul and Priyanka can’t see the failures of Congress-ruled state governments. Be it mob lynching, mafia raj, drug cartel, or bomb blast in Punjab, Rahul and Priyanka don’t see these. Rajasthan can become ‘rape capital’ or ‘attack on RTI activists capital’, they can’t open their mouth. It has become a habit of theirs to make hue and cry over a minor incident of any BJP-ruled state.

Coming to the issue of drugs, an FIR has been lodged against Bikram Singh Majithia and Sidhu is claiming credit for this action against drugs in the state. The Akalis say this is vendetta politics. Do you see any electoral benefit being derived from it and who do you think will be benefitted: Congress or BJP?

If there is a fair investigation and the accused put to trial, the drug mafia will be demotivated. The ones who will be benefitted from this will be the young generation of Punjab. Those who have committed a sin should be punished.

If voted to power, how does the BJP plan to control the drug mafia, alcohol problem and gun violence in the state?

The BJP is committed to the politics of development and the biggest challenges of Punjab are its negative industrial growth, deteriorating law and order situation, destablising of peace. The BJP’s vision is to make it ‘mafia mukt, nasha mukt, apradh mukt Punjab’ (a Punjab free of mafia, addiction and crimes) and aspire to have ‘khushhaal Punjab’ (prosperous Punjab). Punjab’s agriculture should get a new direction to raise the income of farmers.

Dalit politics is played by both the Congress and Akali Dal. The Akalis say they will give a deputy CM post to the BSP. There are a significant number of Dalits in Punjab. How is your party reaching out to Dalits?

The Modi government has worked for the people by rising above caste. We gave the poor toilets, Ayushman Bharat cards, roads, etc. The PM is a ray of hope for the poor. And everyone believes that if there is a government under his leadership, the change will be for their betterment.

Will you play the ‘big brother’ on the matter of seat-sharing with Amarinder Singh?

It would be quite early to speak on that.

Does the BJP have a CM candidate in mind or will you be fine with Captain also?

The BJP has a tradition that where we are contesting elections as a major party independently after a long time to form a government, we don’t announce faces. I want to ask, when UP elections happened in 2017, did you imagine that Yogi Adityanath would be the CM? Or eight years ago when we got separated from the Shiv Sena, did anyone think that Devendra Fadnavis would be the CM?

So you are saying there can be a surprise in store for Punjab as well?

Definitely. After we gain a majority, the parliamentary board and legislators together will decide on the CM. We are rather focusing on contesting to form the government.

Has the repeal of the farm laws opened the gates of Punjab for the BJP?

PM Modi has taken everyone into confidence and there can be no greater example of ‘sabka vishwas’. When the majority of farmers weren’t for these laws but a certain group was opposing, the PM showed large-heartedness and repealed these laws. Also, to ensure there would be no harm to social harmony in Punjab, the PM repealed the laws. There was politics behind the opposition to these laws and those instigating the sentiments have been defeated. There has been a positive atmosphere in Punjab because of the repeal of laws.

Was it because of internal security that the farm laws were repealed?

Punjab is a border state and its social fabric should not be damaged further: I think those were the sentiments behind the PM’s decision to repeal the farm laws. There have been attempts to create a rift between Hindus and Sikhs. It was attempted during the militancy and now using farmers. I think the PM considered these factors while deciding on the repeal.

There has been a big influx in the party, there will be many more joining the BJP. Is this right for the organisation? How will you ensure this would not be a Bengal-like experience?

We in the party think deeply about such issues. But if we look at Bengal, how many MLAs left us? Though we don’t like even a single man leaving but a handful leaving us under pressure won’t make any difference. It can’t be considered a failure. We welcome those who want to come to our family.

How many seats are you expecting?

The elections are yet to be announced. But I can tell you the results will be very surprising.

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