Launching a scathing attack on former Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal over cash-for-post scam, AAP candidate and former Miss India Gul Panag today questioned the clean chit given by CBI in the case to her rival from Chandigarh seat and said he cannot simply brush aside the alleged involvement of his nephew in the scam.
"A man who has to resign from his Ministerial post (Railways) due to a corruption scandal, a man whose nephew is still in jail is talking of having got the clean chit," the 35-year-old Bollywood actress told PTI.
Panag, daughter of a retired Army officer, said the former Railway Minister has to decide whether he was complicit or incompetent to know what was going on in his ministry.
"It's like this. If I am in a scandal where you found somebody guilty, either I am complicit or I am incompetent. I am incompetent if I don't know what is going on in my ministry. So, I think Mr Bansal has to decide what is he, complicit or incompetent," she said.
When asked about four-time Chandigarh MP Bansal's statement that the charge sheet in the case has not named him, she said, "I am sure he has a clean chit, he has been given clean chit by CBI under his own government."
"Individually, I have the highest respect for him. He is a man who is of my father's age. He was a class fellow of my father. He is a man with incredible political acumen and incredible experience. But I think it's time for him to step forward and tell us if is he complicit in this (case) or is he incompetent that he does not know what was going on in his own Ministry," she said.
Bansal's nephew Vijay Singla and nine others, arrested in the Rs 10-crore cash-for-post railway bribery case, will face trial with a special court in Delhi framing charges of criminal conspiracy and corruption against them recently.
Bansal has been arrayed as a prosecution witness by the CBI in its charge sheet filed last year.
Apart from Panag, who writes her full name as Gulkirat Kaur Panag and Bansal, prominent among those who are pitted against them include BJP's actor-turned-politician Kirron Kher and BSP's Jannat Jahan.
Panag said that corruption is an issue which affects everyone and her party's fight is to root it out from the society.
Panag said that people of this country are seeking a change and AAP is trying to provide them with a viable alternative.
Launching an attack on the parties with "Right wing agenda" she said, "On the other extreme there is such a Right wing agenda, it frightens me as somebody who is a minority, as somebody who has been at the receiving end of religious persecution still hasn't seen justice."
"I am not saying these parties will not reform, I am sure they will, time will make them reform. Today, they all have made corruption their agenda suddenly, why? There is public pressure, there are pressure groups, so eventually system will get cleaned up -- 50 years, 60 years down the line, there may be no need for AAP by then. The idea is to force change," said Panag, who has a masters in Political Science.
Commenting on the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, Panag, who belongs to a Sikh family, said the tragic incident was often raked up from time to time by various parties to serve their vested political interests.
"Those accused in the riots case are bigwigs, how is there ever going to be justice...Even the BJP-Akali Dal only bring up the 84 riots issue only when Congress brings up the 2002 (Gujarat) riots case. The Akali Dal, despite being a Sikh Panthi party, never raised the 84 riots issue independently. Why was the SIT not demanded all this while," she said.
When asked what made her to jump into politics, Panag was quick to counter, "I am not into politics, I am here to be part of the change, that's here to clean up a system, which is decaying at the foundations. Finally, you have a man (Arvind Kejriwal) who has shown it's possible."
"All of us are fence sitters, I have been like you sitting and commenting and raising issue based criticism whether it is against the UPA or against Narendra Modi or against AAP.
"I am sure if you dig hard into my (earlier) tweets, you will find some anti-AAP tweets also in the past. I am somebody who has the spine to take the weight of what I say and the convictions. But how long is anybody who genuinely has the passion for change going to sit on the sidelines (referring to herself)," she said.
When asked to comment on Congress leader Rahul Gandhi's statement that AAP is not a factor at national level, she said, "he had said this about Delhi also. Rahul also said he has so much to learn from AAP..."
Asked about some AAP candidates who had returned tickets including in the case of Chandigarh, she said, "Every party has dissent..The thing to understand, from my point of view is that we are a young party, it has made enough mistakes, no doubt about that. I would bet on this party to learn from the mistakes while as other parties just brush these under the table."
To another question that there are numerous instances about film celebrities who entered politics but failed to impress, she cited several cases including the case of the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister who have tasted success.
Panag, who hails from a village in Fatehgarh Sahib near Chandigarh, is actively campaigning in this parliamentary constituency these days.
Panag was named as party candidate from here after Savita Bhatti, widow of noted satirist late Jaspal Bhatti decided to withdraw from the contest.
She candidly says "a few people do recognise me properly, some walk up to me and say may be we have seen you somewhere. Ultimately, what is attracting people at this stage is jhadu (AAP's party symbol), this is overwhelming."
Panag said that her priority is to make sure that people of Chandigarh have a voice.
"My first job as an MP (if elected) will be to make sure that Chandigarh's voice is heard, loud and clear everywhere. My job as a MP is to be servant of the public. I am not going to sit in a chair and say I am going to do that and this, that is not how democracy functions," said Panag.
She downplayed the sparring between her and Kirron Kher on the social media, saying she has full respect for her and whatever the two exchange on Twitter is friendly in nature.
On her personal life, she said that she is an adventure freak.
"I run 21 km at least once a week," said Panag, who got married to her long-time boyfriend Rishi Attari three years back.
An avid biker, Panag said she was waiting for her Royal Enfield motorcycle to reach here from Mumbai before she will be seen with the heavy bike on Chandigarh roads.