Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan a ‘Khalistani sympathiser’, won’t meet him, says Capt Amarinder Singh

New Delhi: Dubbing the Canadian Defence Minister a `Khalistani sympathiser’, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Wednesday said he would not meet the Indo-Canadian during his expected visit to India later this month.

Harjit Sajjan is a Khalistani sympathizer, and so was his father, Captain Amarinder said on eminent journalist Shekhar Gupta’s `Off the Cuff’ show for NDTV24X7 here.

The Chief Minister said there were, in fact, five ministers in the Justin Trudeau government who were Khalistani sympathizers and he would not have any truck with them. “These Khalistani sympathizers had prevailed upon the government to prevent my entry into Canada, where I wanted to go to meet my Punjabi brethren and not to campaign for elections,” said Captain Amarinder.

A candid Captain Amarinder responded with total frankness to several controversial questions, including beef ban, saying people had the right to, and should be allowed to eat whatever they wanted.

He also made it clear he was not in favour of a ban on Pakistani artistes, and said he would be happy to invited them to Punjab and would also love to visit Pakistan again. It was time to mend fences and make friends with Pakistan, he said, urging New Delhi to be wary of China on the other border. Recalling England’s `war of roses’, the Chief Minister said the Indo-Pak tensions were going the same way and needed to give way to peace.

Seeing a deliberate malicious attempt being made by vested interests to pull down Rahul Gandhi, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh urged the people to give the Congress vice president a chance. There was a clear conspiracy against Rahul, who was being targeted with ridiculous names, said Captain Amarinder.

Captain Amarinder said he had always found Rahul Gandhi extremely perceptive and willing to listen, besides being open to suggestions and ideas. He asserted that the Congress vice president extended to him full support during the recent Punjab assembly elections, and he faced no problems at all in the matter of seat allocation.

The Chief Minister admitted that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) led by Arvind Kejriwal had been a challenge in the recent assembly elections but their failure to project a Punjabi for the chief minister’s post cost them heavy and exposed Kejriwal’s ambition to become the CM. AAP, said the Chief Minister, had no future unless they changed their style of functioning. He criticized AAP’s confrontationist attitude, saying states had to work with the Centre and it was important to maintain a working relationship. He himself had excellent relations with the NDA government at the Centre during his previous tenure as chief minister, said Captain Amarinder. The Chief Minister expressed satisfaction at Kejriwal’s failure to target the Naxals and the Khalistanis to promote his vested interests.

Captain Amarinder further attributed the poll outcome to the polarization of votes, with the Sikh votes sharply divided and the Hindus opting for the Congress in a big way.  He once again ruled out out any vendetta politics against the erstwhile ruling party and was also appreciative of the work done by the Akali government around the Golden Temple.

On the controversial EVMs issue, Captain Amarinder said had the EVMs been tampered with in Punjab, he would not be sitting here today. However, he was quick to note that it was important to find out the reason for many advanced countries refusing to adopt EVMs.

Describing Punjab’s current conditions as pathetic, with the state reeling under a massive Rs. 1.82 lakh crore debt, the Chief Minister listed economic revival, along with drugs, education, agriculture, unemployment and health, as his government’s top priority. With the central government also not having excess money, it was important to “tighten our belts to get out of the debt cycle”, said Captain Amarinder, explaining the need for austerity measures in Punjab.

Referring to his government’s crackdown on drugs, Captain Amarinder revealed that with the STF launching a crackdown, things were moving in the right direction. Hundreds of youngsters were voluntarily coming to the rehabilitation centres and the anti-drugs helpline had so far received more than 4000 calls to give information to the agencies.

The Chief Minister ruled out the formation of a Unified Command of the Northern India states, including Jammu and Kashmir, to fight drugs and terrorism. His government was working on training of forces to deal with these problems, he said in response to a question.

Talking about his just-concluded Mumbai visit, where he had gone to woo investment and industry, the Chief Minister said he had received 100% positive response from the captains of industry whom he had met across the spectrum.

Responding to a question, Captain Amarinder said though the NIA had given a clean chit to former Gurdaspur SP Salwinder Singh in the Pathankot terror attack, he had not done the same and would bring the police officer to book.

He referred to the forthcoming new draft transport policy, which his government is in the process of formulating, underlining the need for stringent rules to make people pay for their misadventures on the road.

On the contentious SYL issue, Captain Amarinder reiterated his stand that the state had no water to spare and pointed out that even Prime Minister Narendra Modi had taken note of his concern on the issue. He pointed out that water had been at the root of terrorism in Punjab and the issue could not be allowed to aggravate again.

The Chief Minister stressed the need to break the wheat-paddy cycle and diversify by finding alternatives, for which the state government had initiated the farm-to-fork project. He had sought industry help to implement the project, Captain Amarinder disclosed.

The Chief Minister also referred to the state of health and education in the state and made it clear that the forthcoming budget of his government would address some of the needs in these sectors to implement the Congress poll promises, including free education for girls from primary school to PHD. He also expressed concern at the widespread incidence of cancer, particularly in southern Punjab, and added that his government was committed to addressing the problem.