April 13, 2018 11:11 PM

Chandigarh (Face2News)


Even as he defended his government’s stand in the Navjot Singh Sidhu case in the Supreme Court as being the only legal option available before it, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Friday expressed the hope that the judge would take into account the minister’s contribution to the society and the country in his final verdict.

Though the government could not have taken any other stand in the apex court, other than what it had been taken in the trial and high court earlier, Sidhu deserved the court’s consideration, the Chief Minister said, adding that “Had we done so, we would have been accused of lying either now or earlier,” he quipped, adding that he did not believe in playing politics in judicial cases.

Sidhu, whom he had known since the latter was a child, was a person totally above board, who went out of the way to help people in need, said Captain Amarinder Singh, rejecting charges of not liking the minister. He was not unhappy with any of the party leaders, as was being made out in a section of the media, said the Chief Minister, pointing out that he had always personally supported Sidhu and also Punjab Congress president Sunil Jakhar.

On the reported incident relating to Jakhar leaving without meeting him two days back, the Chief Minister said the PPCC chief was scheduled to meet him but an unscheduled meeting came up. Though Jakhar was asked by CPS Suresh Kumar to go into the room where the said meeting was being held, he decided not to wait but to leave, as he might have had some other work, said the Chief Minister. Captain Amarinder Singh pointed out that he had always pushed Jakhar’s case for leadership in the party, and even the candidate for Gurdaspur by-election.

In a free-wheeling Facebook and Youtube Live interview, the Chief Minister also spoke on a range of other issues, including the Suresh Kumar case, the dissentions in the police force, the allegations of being soft on the Akalis, and the state cabinet expansion, among other things.

On the Suresh Kumar issue, Captain Amarinder Singh hoped the matter would be sorted out in the court soon, but asserted that he had right to choose his own man, just as the former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal had done, and was also being done by prime ministers at the Centre. The Chief Minister felt the entire case against Suresh was instigated by those in the bureaucracy who did not like the officer.

In a similar manner, the dissension in the police force was also a case of personality clash, said the Chief Minister, blaming the situation on the lopsided structure in the uniformed forces, including the armed forces. With vertical rise for everyone, there were more DGPs and IGs now in the state than could be accommodated in the top ranks, Captain Amarinder pointed out, adding that if this continues, in 50 years’ time, there would be only top officers with no constables left.

To a question on the cabinet expansion, the Chief Minister said he would be meeting Congress president Rahul Gandhi in the next few days and expected most of the remaining sanctioned posts to be filled up in this round of expansion. He made it clear that all party MLAs would be accommodated, either as ministers or legislative assistants or as chairmen of Boards/Corporations. He defended his government’s move to install legislative assistants, saying that with 42 departments, it was not possible for the ministers to handle the work alone.

The Chief Minister reiterated his stand that the ministers and party MLAs could continue with their own businesses along with their official work but made it clear that no favouritism or corruption would be tolerated, nor would any illegal activity allowed. On the sand mining issue, he blamed the central legislation banning use of JCBs in sand mining area smaller than 50 hectares, and said his government would find a way to resolve the issue.

Denying the charges of going soft on Akali leaders, the Chief Minister said there was no question of any laxity but “just because they have been crooked did not mean that I should also behave in the same fashion”. He asserted that he would not take any action against anyone out of political vendetta.

On the various achievements of his government, Captain Amarinder Singh  said the debt waiver scheme was well on track and he was optimistic about completing the implementation process by November this year. He also listed out several initiatives being taken to promote crop diversification to bring the farmers out of the vicious debt cycle.

The Chief Minister expressed satisfaction at the interest shown by the industry to invest Punjab and said the tangible results of the investments were already visible on the ground and the next 2-3 years would witness a lot of it getting translated into gains for the state. The job melas were also going well with the cooperation of the industry, he said, adding that the people of Punjab were now realising that this government means business.

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