Capt Amarinder Singh, who is leading the Congress charge in Punjab, spoke to Outlook. Excerpts:
You began your campaign by saying this will be your last election. You are 69. Isn’t it too early to call it a day?
I’m not in politics to make a living. I am doing it for my state. I don’t plan to contest elections after I’m 74 because younger people must get space.
Your brother Malwinder left the Congress and joined the SAD, causing you acute embarrassment. Did you anticipate this when you gave son Raninder and not him a ticket?
I called him a day before he left the party to ask what his plans are. He told me they will be clear the next day. That is when I got my first inkling. But his departure won’t affect the party at all.
You got tickets for your son and yourself, your wife is already a Lok Sabha MP, aren’t you perpetuating the same dynastic politics that you criticise in the Akalis?
Raninder hasn’t got the ticket because of me, but because he put up a good fight as the Lok Sabha candidate from Bhatinda in 2009. The Badal family, on the other hand, follows a feudal style in which their entire clan joins in.
What do you make of Manpreet Badal’s PPP? Would you consider a post-poll alliance with him ?
Manpreet is a man in a hurry. He is intelligent but does not practice what he preaches on corruption. His brother-in-law ran amuck in Gidderbaha and grabbed properties. As for a post-poll alliance, we are not likely to fall short on numbers.
There is some speculation that if the Congress comes to power, it is not you but your wife Preneet Kaur who could be the chief minister....
I haven’t heard of this myself. But my work as CM from 2002-07 is there for everyone to see. The Congress has always given people the opportunity to be CM for two or more tenures. Still, the final decision is of the party president.
Your friendship with a Pakistani woman journalist is being seen as a hurdle in your becoming the next CM. Since the Akalis are not raking it up, is it your detractors in the Congress who are behind the campaign ?
My friendships are not geared towards keeping anyone happy. I went to the World Punjabi Conference in Pakistan in 2007. That is when I made many friends there, including this journalist. It was meant to further Indo-Pak relations. It’s the media which is raising this issue suo motu.