After Congress’s surprise comeback in Punjab, which saw it win 7 of the 13 Lok Sabha seats, leader of opposition Partap Singh Bajwa tells TOI’s Subodh Ghildiyal that not allying with AAP was a conscious decision that bore fruit.
How did Congress do so well after being wiped out in the assembly polls 2022?
I and state president Raja Warring worked together. Congress’s biggest handicap has been lack of unity at the top in the state.We lost because then CM Amarinder Singh, Navjot Sidhu and state chief Sunil Jakhar pulled in different directions. For us, the only effective platform available was the Punjab assembly. Our brilliant performance there helped us, despite AAP having 92 MLAs and Congress 18, and lopsided control of camera in the assembly that focused only on treasury benches. Despite that, we put the CM in the dock, called out his misgovernance, took it to the people, and regained acceptance. Had AAP govt not controlled the camera in assembly, we’d have decimated AAP in the LS polls. I even moved HC to seek impartiality in coverage. In the Lok Sabha polls, we’ve gained 38 assembly segments, AAP score has slid from 92 to 32.
Punjabhas elected two radicals in Khadoor Sahib and Faridkot.
Punjabis always react against govt excesses and they have reacted against the anti-farmer policies and their treatment during the long struggle. Punjab’s identity is “jai jawan, jai kisan”. But Army recruitment was discontinued and farmers were sidelined, which hurt people. And people heard the arguments that gangsters who killed big names such as Moose Wala, or had abducted people, were roaming free or were lodged in local jails, while some are sent to Dibrugarh without any crime, as such, committed. It’s just reaction. And it’s momentary. One doesn’t know if these two fringe MPs will at all come to Parliament. It’s a one-time vote. We’ll see what happens. Punjabis are careful, and want to maintain peace at all costs.
Canthis be stopped before it becomes normal?
It’s a vote against BJP and Modi. A section was polarised that unfortunately led to counter polarisation. The same formula that was tried 40 years ago is being tried again, for which Punjab is still paying a big price. When you raise a religious slogan to polarise one community for political gains, it can trigger counter polarisation. The fringe element that we’ve controlled for 40 years is again raising its head, just because of current policies, the Centre and its agencies. BJP’s campaign brought it to zero, down from 2. But it led to two fringe elements getting elected. I hold BJP responsible for what’s happening in Punjab, seriously advising BJP don’t fish in troubled waters.
Howdid Congress manage the contradiction of allying with AAP as part of the INDIA bloc, but fighting them in Punjab?
From Day 1, I said we won’t touch AAP. Our political stance has been vindicated. Had Congress not allied with AAP in Delhi, it would have won majority of seats. We won 12 in Rajasthan, in UP 43, and in Haryana 5. Delhi’s the same region. Congress and AAP share the same vote base, so an alliance is myopic. We’ve decimated AAP to half in Punjab. From 38 assembly segments, we’ve to now go to 80.
ManyCongress seniors in Punjab joined BJP. Will you let them return?
We’ll never take back those who back-stabbed the party. Polls have proved they were just big names and faces. Preneet Kaur, wife of Amarinder, lost in her family city. Ravneet Bittu lost in Ludhiana. Rana Sodhi lost from Ferozepur which is BJP state chief’s home. Punjab has shown the door to turncoats who ditched the party for personal benefit. In fact, Punjabis and Bengalis have behaved as one. BJP tried everything but failed miserably in Bengal, the same happened in Punjab.

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