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Rediff.com  » News » 'Punjab is in a mess'

'Punjab is in a mess'

By A GANESH NADAR
March 15, 2022 08:54 IST
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'Politics is in a mess. Good people have to join to clean it up.'

IMAGE: Dr Charanjit Singh defeated incumbent Congress chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi in Chamkaur Sahib in Punjab's assembly election. All photographs: Kind courtesy Dr Charanjit Singh/Facebook

With a massive 92 out of 117 seats in its kitty, the Aam Aadmi Party left heavyweights like the Congress and Shiromani Akali Dal far behind.

The Congress, which came in at No 2, won just 18 seats; the SAD has three and the Bharatiya Janata Party two to its name.

Among the AAP contestants was Dr Charanjit Singh, who defeated the Congress's incumbent chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi in Chamkaur Sahib, a seat he had lost to the latter in the 2017 election.

Channi stood from two constituencies this election and lost both.

Dr Singh is the son of Sardar Sardara Singh -- a decorated soldier who joined the army in 1941 and fought in the Second World War -- and Baljit Kaur.

The 60-year-old eye surgeon, who credits his family for his achievements, says when his father -- who was uneducated -- returned from WW2, he had learnt English and ensured his children studied in English medium schools.

While Dr Singh and his sister became doctors, his brother is an engineer.

It was AAP National Convenor Arvind Kejriwal's effective government in Delhi that paved the way for the party's success in Punjab, Dr Singh tells Rediff.com's A Ganesh Nadar.

Asked what helped him beat his namesake, he says, "Every household here knows me. I have been here for 32 years. I have held more than 2,000 eye camps. Lakhs of people have come to me with their eye problems."

 

IMAGE: AAP Supremo Arvind Kejriwal and Dr Singh.

How does it feel to beat the chief minister? What do you think are the reasons for this victory?

The Kejriwal model worked well with Punjabis.

They were fed up with the traditional parties who have looted the state for the past 20 years.

They were happy with the way the Delhi government was providing health services, education and cheap electricity and handling law and order. The schools in Delhi have become better.

Punjabis have voted for change. Punjab is a mess. The farmers are in debt. There is no employment so the youth are using drugs.

Did having the same name as Mr Channi help you?

That didn't help anybody.

He has been here for 15 years. He didn't do anything for the electorate.

He could not perform despite being a cabinet minister in the Punjab government since 2017 and the chief minister for the last four months.

IMAGE: Dr Singh with Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia.

In 2017, you were defeated by Charanjit Singh Channi by over 12,000 votes. What changed between then and now?

In 2017, Kejriwal had not completed his work in Delhi. He had won the election in 2013.

After all the hard work all these years, he was able to deliver on his promises in 2020.

In 2017, the results of his work were not yet visible.

How many of your voters do you know through your free eye camps?

I have been here for 32 years and have held more than 2,000 eye camps. We have done 45,000 free eye surgeries in these camps.

Every household here knows me.

Lakhs of people have come to me for their eye problems.

When and why did you join AAP?

Actually, I was doing social work for many years.

Politics is in a mess. Good people have to join to clean it up.

My family initially opposed my idea of joining politics, but, finally, they wholeheartedly supported me. This helped me in my victory.

I became a better politician between 2017 and 2022 and learned everything about politics (laughs).

What happened to the Congress and the Akali Dal in Punjab?

They met their fate. People came to know that they were fooling them for decades.

Debts, rising prices, no jobs... people were in a bad shape.

What do you think of the BJP?

In Punjab, there is no division on religious lines. Hindus and Sikhs live together. There is no cultural divide.

Society is well-educated. Families have members living abroad, so they are helped by their NRI family members.

Hindus here don't think they have to vote for the BJP.

Hindus and Sikhs visit each other's temples and gurdwaras.

What are your plans for your constituency?

This constituency is a religious one.

There is no industry here. There is a lack of good institutes. There is no government college.

Job opportunities are very few.

These are the areas we have to work on.

We have to encourage and build religious tourism and industry and provide better education facilities.

What are the biggest problems facing Punjab today?

Employment.

And, due to the lack of employment, drugs have become a problem.

The earlier government was privatising everything. Private sector schools and hospitals are owned by politicians.

There is a mafia in every sector.

We have to get rid of all that. We need an honest government.

Will you continue your medical practice or are you going to become a full-time MLA?

I have liabilities. Let us see what the party tells me to do.

I will continue my free eye camps.

My practice will be less and politics will be more.

Will we see you as the health minister?

(Laughs) Only Arvind Kejriwal knows the answer to that.

I will work wherever he asks to.

Feature Presentation: Rajesh Alva/Rediff.com

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