'Congress Is Now A Mean Machine'
What are the Congress' chances?
We'll get an absolute majority, without much difficulty. People are fed up with the Akalis. The writing is on the wall. You'll be surprised at the number of Akalis, some of them sitting MLAs, who have approached us because they know which way the wind is blowing. Even Parkash Singh Badal's cousins have joined us.
Isn't that an overly optimistic assessment?
On the contrary, it's a realistic view. The Akalis have declined. This regime is the most corrupt and inefficient one in the history of the state. Most government posts are up for sale. There's no future for the youth. Over two lakh of them pass out of colleges and institutes every year. Punjab was once considered India's grain bowl. But this year alone there have been close to 600 farmer suicides in the state.... Almost all industries around Ludhiana and Jalandhar have shut down.
How is this any different from the record of earlier Congress regimes?
Non-performance was never institutionalised before. In 1997 when we were voted out, Punjab's total debt was Rs 13,000 crore. Today, it has climbed to nearly Rs 58,000 crore. Who is responsible for this?
The Congress is plagued by infighting and analysts say that if the party wins, it will be on a negative vote.
There are some differences, but it's not infighting. People may have differing perceptions, but the fact is that the Congress wave is so strong this time that individuals will have to come around. We've converted the party into a mean and trim fighting machine.
Are you the next CM?
The high command and the MLAs will decide that. But if Sonia Gandhi has given me the opportunity to be state president for over three years now, I have her total confidence.
What about militancy in Punjab?
The Congress wiped it out and people are grateful. Compare this to what the Akalis have been doing: settling down known separatists like Hassan Singh Jaffarwal and Jagjit Singh Chauhan. Voters know who supported and nurtured terrorism.