Express News Service

Punjab’s Leader of Opposition and senior AAP leader Harpal Singh Cheema has expressed confidence in his party’s success in Assembly polls. According to him, the incompetence of the Congress government will prompt people to vote for AAP. Excerpts from an interview…With Assembly elections approaching, the political situation in Punjab is very fluid. How do you rate AAP’s chances?In 2017, AAP contested Assembly elections as a third party for the first time. People responded with confidence and faith in our party. With allies, we had 22 MLAs. We are contesting elections again and getting good responses on the ground. We are sure AAP will form the next government in Punjab. We expect 70-80 seats. People are appreciating our ground realities and looking at Arvind Kejriwal with hope and respect.During the last elections, there was huge hype that AAP would come to power but it did not happen. How will you avoid a repeat?This time we will get better results than in 2017. Back then, we contested for the first time. This time, people are telling us to keep going and that they are with us.Who is your biggest rival in Punjab? Congress or Shiromani Akali Dal?Our biggest rival in Punjab is corruption, unemployment and the condition of farmers. We have to fight on these issues and then only the people will throw away Congress and Shiromani Akali Dal.Your party has not yet come out clearly about the chief minister. Don’t you think it will affect your performance, considering that there was no chief minister face last time either?If we do not declare a chief ministerial face, it will affect us. Our party will definitely go to the polls with a CM face. It will be from Punjab itself.What is your take on Punjab AAP president Bhagwant Mann, considering that his supporters and other party leaders want him to be declared the party’s CM face?There is inner party democracy in AAP and everyone has a right to present a viewpoint. Bhagwant Mann is our state unit president, second time MP and he is performing very well. But our CM face will be decided by the central leadership and national convenor Arvind Kejriwal.What is going to be your slogan in Punjab? Will it be the Delhi model for Punjab or sacrilege, unemployment, drug mafia, sand mafia, cancellation of PPAs or cheap electricity?The Delhi model is needed in Punjab, like for instance in the field of education which has collapsed. Also in the health and transportation sector. Shiromani Akali Dal did nothing and only increased the debt burden on the state. Following the same pattern, Congress has been continuously increasing the debt burden. The second point is, Congress came to power with the slogan of good governance, finishing drug mafia, eradicating unemployment and loan waiver. But this government could not fulfil any of its promises in five years. Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi is just making announcements like other Congress leaders. There is zero implementation on the ground. The government treasury is empty, there is a burden of loans. To repay those loans the government is taking loan. How can it give relief to the people of the state?What is the Delhi model and how is it applicable in Punjab?The Delhi model will be totally replicated in Punjab. For that, the biggest issue is money. Leakage of the government treasury has to stop and once that happens, things will fall in place. We will work 18 hours a day, fill the government treasury, pay off loans and also do development work. Corruption will be finished. Buildings and other projects this government is undertaking for Rs 100 crore, our government will do for Rs 50 crore or Rs 75 crore and use the remaining money in upgrading education and health facilities.Congress is dogged by infighting. Do you think this makes it a perfect opportunity for AAP?Infighting in Congress is well known. The time the government should have spent on developmental work has been wasted by them struggling to solve their own issues. Then they changed the chief minister. It proves that Congress did nothing for almost five years. People choose governments for five years, not for three months. Definitely, AAP will gain from this.AAP has also been hit hard by infighting. Five of your MLAs have joined Congress, one was disqualified and two others are unlikely to be given tickets. How is AAP different from Congress?Before the 2017 elections, the same scene was created by the Shiromani Akali Dal in Congress when they took away their leaders and people. Then, the public made sure in the elections that the deposits of these leaders were forfeited. So, despite Congress trying to create differences in our party, AAP will form the next government.Punjab has the highest Schedule Caste (SC) votes. What is AAP’s SC card?We play the Aam Adami Card and no other card. When the time comes, our national leadership will decide the CM face and make other announcements.Congress has already played the SC card by making Charanjit Singh Channi the chief minister. Shiromani Akali Dal has also tied up with BSP and announced if the alliance is voted to power, they will have an SC Deputy CM.SC votes will never be divided. Congress and SAD have done nothing for SCs till date and they know this.