Partap Singh Bajwa, a heavyweight in Punjab politics, has served as the former Congress party president in the state, besides representing Gurdaspur as an MP in 2009-14, when he had defeated late Vinod Khanna. He is also the Vice Chairman of AICC Foreign Affairs department.
With Punjab elections on the weekend, Partap Singh Bajwa, who is now a Rajya Sabha member, spoke about the Congress’ prospects, farmer debt waiver, Modi wave and the in-fighting in AAP.
Akrita Reyar: Punjab will have a single-phase election on May 19, how do you rate the Congress’ chances? How many seats is your party expecting to win?
Partap Singh Bajwa: I can’t take a guess. But I think it will be a reasonably good (haul). I can’t say that we will be winning all 13 but I am certain that we stand a very good chance. From the look of things, it seems we are in a good position and that the Opposition is in a state of disarray.
Akrita Reyar: In Gurdaspur, a constituency that you represented, popular star Sunny Deol has been fielded by the BJP. Will he get the same advantage of star-power as Vinod Khanna did?
Partap Singh Bajwa: It has been proven beyond doubt that star-power helps, not only in my constituency but in the whole of India. You talk about NTR, Jayalalithaa, Hema Malini coming all the way from Tamil Nadu to Mathura, Jaya Prada coming from South to Rampur, Vinod Khanna coming from Mumbai and winning a couple of times in Gurdaspur. Dharmendra going from Mumbai to Bikaner. So, there are no two views about it that star power helps. Look at the recent cases of Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth. Star-power certainly increases the winnability of a candidate. In Gurdaspur, the only time Vinod Khanna was defeated was by me in 2009. Whenever film stars come for the first time, they have a lot of attraction, especially for voters from age 18 to 25. First-time voters or young voters turn up in large numbers to root for film stars. Star craze is there all over India.
Akrita Reyar: What will be the main issues in the elections this time in Punjab?
Partap Singh Bajwa: Punjab is basically an agrarian state. And the biggest issue for the farmers is that they feel complete helplessness though the government at the Centre has been promising them a good MSP (minimum support price) for their crops (yield). (If the Centre delivers on that promise)… profits will go up by one and half times, (but it hasn’t and therefore) they (the farmers) haven’t got much. And also, the Punjab farmer is caught in a debt trap. These are vital issues and we need some kind of policies to get the farmers out of this situation. Secondly, since the mid-60s till now Punjab has been the food bowl of India. For the last 50 years, we have been the largest contributors of rice and wheat in India. But now, in the soil of Punjab, water levels are falling drastically.