Rahul Gandhi can pressure Centre to make MSP a legal right: Punjab Leader of the Opposition 


Partap Singh Bajwa, Leader of Opposition in Punjab Assembly. File

Partap Singh Bajwa, Leader of Opposition in Punjab Assembly. File
| Photo Credit: The Hindu

Battling factionalism and desertions, the Congress in Punjab put up an impressive electoral performance in the Lok Sabha election. Leader of the Opposition in the Punjab Assembly, Partap Singh Bajwa, shares his assessment of the recently concluded General Election. Edited excerpts.

The party president, Mallikarjun Kharge, told the Congress Working Committee (CWC) that the Indian National Developmental, Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) bloc should function cohesively. You were present at the CWC meeting, but you continue to target the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Punjab every day. Are you not defying the high command?

It was clear from the outset that our alliances were tailored for specific regions, goals, and circumstances. While we aligned with the AAP in Haryana and Delhi, we had valid reasons for contesting against the AAP in Punjab, which we communicated to the high command. The election results in Punjab speak for themselves — we outperformed all other parties. The high command’s directive should be interpreted in spirit, not just in letter. Our mission is to uphold democracy, protect the Constitution, and preserve our social fabric. My criticism of the AAP stems from their inefficiencies in governance. The plight of the poor is ignored, the law and order situation is deteriorating every day, and the drug menace is rampant. My sole aim is the welfare and safety of Punjabis, and this objective aligns with serving the greater good, not defying any directive.

Before the 2022 Assembly election, the Punjab Congress had almost imploded, and the party lost badly. What changed in the 2024 Lok Sabha election for the Congress to win seven out of 13 seats?

I have always maintained that those who abandon ship in tough times or exploit crises never achieve true success. We must trust the collective wisdom of the people, especially in Punjab. A significant change was the departure of opportunists, leaving only dedicated workers and leaders. Our ticket selection focused on choosing the best candidates to represent Punjab in Parliament, rather than relying on arithmetic, caste combinations, or expert jargon. Our clear intention was to make our parliamentarians a source of pride for Punjab. When intentions are pure, people connect with the cause, leading to victory. Despite a multi-cornered contest, our dedication to this ideology secured us the most seats.

In the 2024 Lok Sabha election, there were some clear trends in Punjab — the BJP doubled its vote share, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) almost got wiped out, and the AAP is on the wane. What is your assessment for the next Assembly election?

The BJP’s increased vote share may result from their rhetoric but in Punjab, genuine connection with the people matters more than numbers. Those with ill intentions are invariably punished. Akalis, Captain Amarinder’s government, and now the AAP have faced consequences for making false promises.

The BJP has never been a serious contender here. Religious division and related politics do not resonate in Punjab, a land enriched by its diverse, composite culture. The BJP, AAP, and SAD need to focus on genuine developmental issues rather than emotional exploitation. This is a land of gurus, sants, pirs and fakirs. Congress will blessed by the people of Punjab in the next Assembly polls.

Do you think Congress will declare a chief ministerial face before the Assembly election?

We will address that when the time comes. The party high command will consult with our cadres and respect their feedback, as they did when we decided to contest alone. Our current focus is on strengthening the party. Punjab has faced significant challenges and needs a leader with a clear vision and roadmap.

Two radical leaders won the election from Khadoor Sahib and Faridkot. How worrying are these trends?

The election results reflect the people’s dissatisfaction with the current system and the ongoing leadership crisis in Punjab. The rise of the AAP in 2022, and the victory of these two leaders highlight this discontent. Hollow promises for power have backfired, as seen with Captain Amarinder’s administration. Every stakeholder should be careful about not playing with fire. Punjab, as well as my family, has paid a heavy price. I lost my father to terrorism in the 1980s. The only silver lining is that by participating in the democratic process, the radical elements have shown their belief in the Constitution of our country. My worry lies in the trust deficit created by past leadership. I want the youth to believe in the system and feel their voices are heard.

It appears that you tried to persuade Rahul Gandhi to take up the position of the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha for the sake of farmers. Can you explain what you meant?

Rahul Gandhi is undoubtedly the best candidate for the Leader of the Opposition. Parliamentarians represent their electorate and his extensive efforts — walking across the country, meeting people, and understanding their issues — demonstrate this deep connection. His leadership was crucial in uniting the INDIA bloc to protect the Constitution. He reflects the collective voice and aspirations of the people, particularly farmers, making him the ideal choice for this role. He can put pressure on the government to ensure that MSP (minimum support price) becomes a legal right, and the Agniveer scheme is rolled back. After all, kisans and jawans come from the same family.

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