“I had similar views of having an understanding with the People’s Party of Punjab (PPP) before the 2012 assembly polls. We didn’t do that and we had to pay the price,” Bajwa said, talking to reporters before taking part in a cycle rally ‘Jawani Sambhal Yatra’ organised by Congress Legislature Party leader Charanjit Singh Channi.
The PPP — led by Manpreet Singh Badal, since merged with the Congress — got no seats in 2012 but was seen as a spoiler at several seats for the Congress. Bajwa had been made state unit chief after Congress lost the polls under Amarinder; but Amarinder returned to the post after much acrimony ahead of the polls due next year. He did not answer direct questions on whether Sidhu’s front can be another PPP.
However, he rejected Sidhu’s idea of “Congress without Captain”. “That is not possible because the whole of our campaign is revolving around the Punjab Congress president,” he said. He opined that “any kind of understanding” with the Sidhu-led front will strengthen the Congress, and that formation of several fronts will benefit the SAD-BJP alliance by dividing the anti-incumbency vote.
Stressing that the party should initiate talks with former BJP MP Sidhu, he reasoned as his “personal views” that it will give us an advantage “perception-wise and also in terms of seats, as Sidhu’s group is in a position of winning 4-5 assembly seats”. Every seat counts in these crucial assembly elections, he underlined.
On border tension: ‘Raise volunteer force’
In the wake of tension along the India-Pakistan border after strikes by the Indian army in Pak-occupied Kashmir, Rajya Sabha member Bajwa said a village volunteer force should be raised in Punjab on the lines of such initiatives in Jammu and Kashmir. This force, he said, should be provided paramilitary training and be provided arms and honorarium from the central government.
“Such a force will prove to be a second line of defence for the country and can also help in self-defence of residents and help in stopping smuggling.”
He also questioned the evacuation of residents from border villages in Punjab: “Why is evacuation being done in Punjab but not in states like Rajasthan and Gujarat which too share a border with Pakistan?”