Never thought of joining BJP due to differences with Congress: Amarinder

New Delhi: Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Wednesday categorically denied having ever toyed with the idea of joining the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) due to differences with the Congress.

The Chief Minister dismissed media reports to this effect as `misrepresentation’ of facts, saying though he did think of launching his own party due to differences with the Congress leadership, the thought of joining the BJP never crossed his mind.

In a conversation with Suhel Seth after the Delhi launch of his book on the Saragarhi battle, and the unveiling of his authorized biography `The People’s Maharaja’, the Chief Minister did not shy from speaking his mind on controversial subjects like the alleged Khalistani leanings of the Canadian defence minister and the `human shield’ action of an Indian Army officer in Kashmir.

Sticking to his stand on the Khalistani support in the Canadian government, the Chief Minister maintained that the Justin Trudeau government had several members who were Khalistani supporters. Captain Amarinder again reiterated his support for Major Nitin Gogoi, saying he took the right decision to protect the life of his men. The officer, said the Chief Minister, did a great job and “I think the entire Indian Army supports him and he should be given a distinguished services medal’.

Claiming to be a positive man, who always preferred to look at things and situations positively, the Chief Minister came out candidly with his views on various subjects, while mincing no words in offering his criticism where he thought it was merited. He was confident that the Congress, a 120-year-old party, would bounce back “as there ups and downs in politics”.

Referring to an episode in his biography, Captain Amarinder said he never spoke to then Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar after he found out that 21 Khalistani terrorists, who he (Captain) had arranged to surrender, had been shot dead six months later. He saw this as a betrayal by the prime minister and never met him after that.

Asked about his prediction of the demise of Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Captain Amarinder said he merely read the situation on the ground and found that there was no groundswell in the party’s favour, just a hype in the media, especially the social media. The people of Punjab wanted a stable government and voted for one, he added.

The Chief Minister, however, refused to be drawn into criticism of 95-year-old Parkash Singh Badal, saying he had nothing personal against the Badals, who had their own way of thinking. Badal’s arrest during his (Captain’s) previous tenure was a legal fallout of the court’s orders, he added.

On the issue of SYL, the Chief Minister once again warned of the risk of revival of terrorism and naxalism if the canal was constructed, causing southern Punjab to go dry. He pointed out that water was the main issue in the Anandpur Sahib resolution and could once again become the source of contention and violence in the state.

Asked about the problems and challenges facing his government, Captain Amarinder said drugs was a major concern, which his government was tackling with all its might. Industrial revival and infrastructural development to meet the needs of the growing population were other priorities that needed to be addressed, he added.

Earlier, the passion with which Captain Amarinder unveiled his own latest book on military history, `The 36th Sikhs in the Tirah Campaign 1897-98 – Saragarhi and the defence of the Samana forts’, struck an emotional chord with the audience, drawn from a wide diaspora of people from different walks of life.

And the launch of Captain Amarinder’s authorised biography – The People’s Maharaja, authored by Khushwant Singh, left them dazed at the huge spectrum of the rich experiences of his life – from his childhood, right through his youth, to the halls of power where he eventually found himself, serving the people of Punjab with the same passion that he had shown in the Indian Army, of which he was a part for a brief but critical time.

While his book on the Saragarhi battle is a small endeavour on his part to put things in perspective with respect to an important historical moment, his authorised biography brings to light several known and little known aspects of his personal and professional life, with no attempt to push controversial issues like Operation Blue Star, his relations with the Gandhi family, his meeting with Musharraf etc under the carpet.

With regard to the Saragarhi battle, the Chief Minister spoke about the collective gallantry of human beings when faced with imminent death, while lamenting that the men who laid their lives at the altar of valor have been virtually forgotten in India, in contrast with UK, where an elaborate event is planned to mark the Saragarhi battle’s anniversary in September He himself will be unveiling his book in London as part of the special event on September 12, he said.

The Saragarhi book is a homage to the 21 men of the 36th Sikhs, who, led by Havaldar Ishar Singh, laid their lives fighting in what was, perhaps, the greatest last stands of all times. It is in particular dedicated to the lone NCE – the 22nd man, generally known as Dad, who also died fighting during the battle, having picked up a weapon and killed a few tribals before falling in the last moments of the battle.

Captain Amarinder Singh, an ex-Army officer turned military historian who has the honour of belonging to the celebrated 36th Sikhs, said it was sad that Dad’s story of valour remained buried in the sands of time due to some lopsided rules that prevented him from being honoured like the other 21 who died fighting the Afghan tribals in the battle. The book, he said, was a small effort to put things in perspective.

The proceeds of the book, launched in the 120th year of the battle, will go the Ludhiana Welfare Association for decapitated soldiers, orphans and widows.

Captain Amarinder is a prolific writer on military history and his earlier books on the subject include: `A Ridge too far: War in the Kargil Heights 1999’, `The Monsoon War: Young Officers Reminisce – 1965 India-Pakistan War’, ‘Honour and Fidelity: India’s Military Contribution to the Great War 1914-18’, `The Last Sunset: The Rise and Fall of the Lahore Durbar’, and `Lest We Forget’.

— PTC News