Punjab Election 2017: Arvind Kejriwal calls Narendra Modi vindictive, blames EC for promoting bribery

A day after Indian National Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi announced Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee president Captain Amarinder Singh as the face of the party in Punjab, Delhi chief minister and AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal has ventured into Captain Amarinder Singh's home turf of Patiala. CNN-News18 spoke to the Delhi chief minister on Captain Singh, AAP's Punjab ambitions, his tussle with the Election Commission and his antagonistic relationship with the prime minister. Edited excerpts from the interview:

 Punjab Election 2017: Arvind Kejriwal calls Narendra Modi vindictive, blames EC for promoting bribery

Arvind Kejriwal. PTI

CNN-News18: Rahul Gandhi has said that Captain Amarinder Singh is going to be Congress's CM candidate — don't you think that it is going to energise the Congress, and Congress will consolidate?

Arvind Kejriwal: What was the need for the Congress that just a few days before elections, it had to declare him (Captain Amarinder Singh ) as CM candidate? What has happened that Congress had to announce a CM candidate? The reason is Congress is losing very badly. So, they thought that if they declare a CM candidate, their chances will improve. But the people of Punjab have made up their mind. Forget about declaring Captain as the CM candidate, if they declare him as the PM candidate also, nothing will change. Even God cannot save the Congress. No one can save the Congress. Today, you saw at the road show Captain Saab is losing from his own constituency, kahan ke CM, kaise CM? (CM of where? CM of what?) Captain is losing from Patiala and from Lambi, and (he is) losing badly. There will be no gains from this.

You are a political opponent. Of course, you will say that Captain is losing. But he is not expected to lose from Patiala?

No. The people are saying that. You were there, you spoke with people. Toh janta ne bola aap ko aam aadmi ko vote de rahi hai (The people told you they are voting for the AAP).

Sir, there is a strong undercurrent for the AAP, yes, but Patiala is Captain's home turf...

Was (Captain's home turf ). This time people want change. Everybody wants change. Change from Congress, Akali, BJP. Change from the existing political system that has pushed Punjab into drugs. Where was Captain when drugs were sold in Punjab? What was the Captain doing for ten years? People say drugs began to be sold during his time. Three years ago, when Majithia was about to be arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Captain approached Sonia Gandhi to save Majithia. And in return, they took back all the cases against the Captain. People are tired of this. Earlier they did not have a choice, now they do — a neat and clean and good option that has emerged from within the people. People will vote for them.

When Captain took on Prakash Singh Badal from Lambi, you said that it was a fixed match because he was dividing the anti-incumbency vote. And before that, you said it was a fixed match because he never took on big leaders. How can you have it both ways?

No, no — I am saying if he had to fight really, he should have left Patiala. Bhagwant Mann is fighting from one seat, Jarnail Singh is contesting from one seat but Captain is fighting from Patiala and Lambi. One newspaper asked him why was he fighting from two seats. He said he is fighting from Patiala to win. So, from Lambi, he is not fighting to win. He is fighting to make Parkash Singh Badal win. This is something that he has admitted.

By declaring Amarinder Singh as the CM candidate, has the Congress not stolen one of your weapons? Because you always said that Sidhu will be the Congress's CM candidate, that he was promised. So, that question has been settled?

Let them steal all our weapons, even then the Congress is not going to win. People have made up their minds. People want to move away from this old politics. People want to build a new Punjab, a Punjab of their hopes and dreams. Congress/BJP/Akali Dal are all the same... same characters, same friendships. They get married amongst each other. They have relationship with each other. Majithia is Captain's nephew. Yeh saare mile hue hain (they're all in it together). People want to put an end to their politics.

What about AAP? The AAP has not declared a CM face here. Why is it that you have not declared a CM face here when you have done that in Goa?

That will be decided after the elections. All the MLAs will sit together and decide.

What is the reason that you have not decided?

Different states have different strategies.

We are getting to hear four names: Jarnail Singh, Bhagwant Mann, HS Phoolka and Himmat Singh Shergill?

MLAs will decide.

Is that not one of the factors in your party's campaign that has out you on the backfoot? Is that not a political risk you are taking by not declaring a CM face?

The people are not asking us who will be the CM, only the media is interested, people are happy. We have worked in Delhi with honesty. They want that in Punjab also.

In all your speeches you say that you will stand guarantee for all your manifesto promises that your party has made. Does this not point to a leadership vaccuum in Punjab?

People have faith in me. People believe, Kejriwal kattar imaandar hai, usko duniya ki koi bhi takat khareed nahi sakti (Kejriwal is an honest man. No power on this earth can buy him). And there is a second factor. People believe, Jo woh kehta hai, woh karta hai, apni baat as mukar nahi jaata, jhoot nahi bolta hai (He does what he says. He does not go back on his word. He does not lie). That is why I am the guarantee of the manifesto promises.

Why not project one strong face in Punjab?

Now the party feels, it should be decided after the elections. Let the MLAs decide.

You have locked horns with the Election Commission — you have again tweeted reacting to them restraining you from making the statement, "donon partiyon se note loh, lekin aam aadmi party ko vote do". In that you are attacking an institution?

I am not attacking any institution. I am reminding them of their responsibility. Everyone in Punjab will acknowledge that money is being distributed. Where is the EC? Is the EC sleeping? Can't they see that money is being distributed? EC is not telling them anything. I am saying whoever comes to distribute the money, take the money from them but vote for us.

What is the wrong thing I have said? EC is forbidding me to say that. Does the EC want me to say, "Give your vote to whoever gives you money?" EC mil gaya hai in partyion ke saath (EC is with these parties). Point out what is the wrong thing that I have said. I have said: Paise donon partiyon se lena lekin vote hume dena (Take money from both parties but vote for us). We did that in Delhi. People took money from BJP, Congress but voted for us. If the same thing happens in one or two more elections, parties will stop distributing money. They will feel they are losing their money.

I am doing the work of the EC, I am finishing bribery. EC, by stopping me, is encouraging bribery. EC has threatened me, "If you repeat this we will withdraw your symbol". A van belonging to the Akali Dal was caught, EC does not withdraw their symbol... money, liquor is being distributed but their symbols are not withdrawn. And they will withdraw our symbols? EC should do its duty. The way EC is behaving... they declared elections on the fifth... why? Because Modi ji has to speak on the third. So, now you will declare elections according to Modiji? Why are elections in Punjab and Goa held on the same day? The entire country knows the reason. Is the Election Commission independent now? EC belongs to the people of this country not to two-three people. If those sitting in that chair will not respect that, people of this country will raise their voice.

Sir but you are an elected chief minister — you are expected to be acting according to certain norms...

Tell me what norms have I violated. I have not indulged in any violence. It is my duty to raise my voice against wrong practices within the boundaries of the Constitution. If any wrong is being done, I will raise my voice.

They expect that you should show more respect...

Respect has to be earned. If your deeds don't command respect, how will we respect you? When TN Sheshan was there, when Lyngdoh Saab was there, everyone respected them. Now, no one respects the EC.

Sir, you are casting very strong aspersions against the EC...

I have been saying this for the past ten days. This is not the first time. Don't you see that the date announcement was not correct. They did the same thing in Delhi also. On 10 January, Modiji had to address a rally in Ramlila Maidan... (and then EC declared dates)... so, now dates of elections will be decided by the election commission according to the schedule of Modiji's speeches? Is this the independence of the election commission. That means dates are being decided by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), not the EC.

Deputy CM Sukhbir Badal has targeted you on two counts — by saying that you are from outside and that you have links with extremists...

Sukhbir Badal is saying all the NRIs who are coming — all of them are extremists. How can that be? When plane-loads of NRIs had arrived, he said that they are bringing extremists. Are all Punjabi NRIs extremists? All of them left Punjab due to compulsion, because Badals and Captain together had destroyed Punjab so much that they did not have an option. Now, they are coming back to help Punjab progress and they are being called extremists? This is shameful!

Captain Amarinder Singh has called you a sneaky little fellow, a slimy little fellow...

Let him say that. Buzurg hain toh gaali dete hai toh namashkar. Koi baat nahi (Even if our elders insult us it's like they're blessing us. No matter).

There are reports that the Congress is consolidating among the Hindus. Does that worry you?

No that is not true. I don't know who has told you that Congress is consolidating... media gives more space to the Congress, media gives us little space. Within the people, there is no Congress.

You are absolutely sure that there is no threat from the Congress party?

Understand this. Our fight is not against the Congress, our fight is that of the people against corruption and drugs. People are seeing a new ray of hope in AAP. Understand one thing — in Punjab, this election has gone out of the hands of parties and politicians — Yeh Kejriwal ki pahunch se, Captain ki pahunch se, Badalon ki pahunch se, Bhagwant Mann ki pahunch se bahar hai, yeh chunav ab janta ladh rahi hai (This is out of Kejriwal's hands, Captain's hands, Badals' hands, Bhagwant Mann's hands. The people are fighting this election). This is an election of hope.

Your party has had a bumpy ride in Punjab, hasn't it? You had to suspend two MPs, you had to suspend Succha Singh Chhotepur . Looking back, do you think it had a negative impact on people? The rise became tougher for you, to rebuild the image and establish hope in the minds of people?

There are ups and downs.

Would you have wanted things to be different?

Maybe, some things could have been done differently? I cannot comment on individual incidents now.

In case there is a hung assembly, would you support or take the support of any party?

Which report is saying this?

There are some reports. Some opinion polls?

Which report?

I cannot remember exactly which....

All false. You also know.

There is a wave for AAP in Malwa... but in Majha...

It is not a wave for AAP... it is a wave for hope. Please try and understand that. That hope is very strong. Like you asked, can Congress consolidate in one week? Is the Congress hope? Is there hope from the Congress? No. This is an election of hope. People have made up their minds. It cannot be reversed now. In such an election, umeed ki chunav (election of hope), people give decisive verdicts — either for Congress or for AAP

But just in case there is a hung assembly sir?

It is a theoretical question.

So you definitely don't want to commit now?

No, no... I am committing. There will be no understanding with any party. But I am saying the question is theoretical. There is no question of any gathbandhan (tying up with another party).

What will be the next steps for your party?

People will decide. In the case of Punjab also, people decided. Wherever people want us we will fight from there.

Going through your Twitter handle, like on Republic day, you said that the PM has asked the CBI to raid your department and seize papers?

They came on 20 January. They took away all the files of our feedback unit. Tell me, is this a Republic? Is this a federal structure? Every single day, CBI takes away files of one of our departments. Why is Modiji so negative? Why is he after us?

You have had an antagonistic relationship with the PM... is there anything positive you see in him?

Matlab woh agar than le na — isko chhodna nahi, badla lena hai, toh chodte nahi usko (If he decides he wants to get after someone, take revenge upon them, he doesn't leave them). Matlab bahut (I mean he's very) vindictive hain. Bahut zyada (Far too) vindictive.

Is that a positive thing?

Pata nahi (I don't know) — I can't think of anything. Can you suggest something?

You are turning the question to me... a question is not the answer.

I can't think of anything positive that he has done in the past two years.

Nothing at all?

I can't think of anything.

My last question: How important is Punjab for you?

You had only tweeted... that people of Punjab opted for us... Arvind Kejriwal is not important, Aam Aadmi Party is not important. Whatever we are doing, we are doing it for the state, for the country. The question that you asked, "how important it is for us?" For us, every part of the country is important. We came into politics out of compulsion, not out of choice. Wherever people want us, we will work hard... that is our duty... the rest is up to God.

Updated Date: Jan 28, 2017 13:24:39 IST