Patiala, May 7, 2019-
Only the Congress can alleviate the woes of the people and put India back on the track of development, as the party did in Punjab, said Congress candidate and three-time Member of Parliament Preneet Kaur, who is in the fray for the fifth time from the Patiala Lok Sabha seat, where the fort of her husband and now Chief Minister Amarinder Singh’s erstwhile kingdom is located.
In an interview, Kaur said the people of India want and deserve ‘Nyay’ (meaning justice) that Rahul Gandhi has promised. The Nyuntam Aay Yojana (Nyay) is a financial benefit scheme of the party under which Rs 72,000 a year would be transferred to bank accounts of women members of the country’s 20% poorest families.
“Let me ask you something: Can dynasty ensure votes and victory for any candidate?” she asked. People vote for performance and development, which the Congress in Punjab is not only promising but also delivering on, Kaur, who became Union Minister of State for External Affairs in UPA-II, said.
“My voters are aware of how effectively I had represented Patiala in Parliament for three terms (1999, 2004 and 2009) and how I had served the people here. I got the ticket because the party had faith in my ability and track record, and I will win because of the same,” she said.
“As far as dynasty is concerned, it is an honour to be part of this family, which I will continue to serve just like I will always continue to nurture my constituency.”
On sitting Patiala Member of Parliament Dharamvira Gandhi, 69, her main opponent who prefers to reach out to the voters by riding on a rickshaw, Kaur, 75, replied: “I really know very little about Dr Gandhi, except that he is a well-to-do practising doctor.”
He had joined politics on AAP plank but had obviously decided to shift his ideology by leaving the party only within two months of entering Parliament.
“I don’t know whether the party could not fit into his thinking or vice versa. Either way, I do not see him as a threat of any kind,” said Kaur.
She faced defeat from Gandhi by a slender margin of 20,000 votes. He is again in the fray as a nominee of the new outfit — Nawan Punjab Party.
In her campaign to reach Parliament for the fourth time, Kaur speaks of development during her husband’s tenure as the Chief Minister vis-A-vis the 10-year “misrule” of the Akalis.
“I am focusing on the development works done by the Captain Amarinder government in just two years,” Kaur, who is often called the Maharani Sahiba.
“Patiala, as we all know, was deliberately ignored by the SAD-BJP for 10 long years. And we were left with no infrastructure. The Captain Amarinder Singh government, immediately after taking over in March 2017, launched programmes to get things back on track in the region, bringing in a wave of optimism among the people.”
“I am taking this development promise further and telling the people that only the Congress can bring them back on the path of progress,” a soft-spoken Kaur said.
Besides, on the national level, she said: “I am taking forward the Congress agenda of holistic development, as promised by Rahul Gandhi and the rest of the party leadership.”
“Only the Congress can alleviate the woes of the people and put India back on the track of development, as we did in Punjab. Our farmers need support, which we will give through an exclusive budget. That is my election plank on the national level.”
Does she think the Congress victory in Punjab would mean endorsement of Congress policies?
“The success of the Punjab model has been replicated in many states, including those run by the BJP. So I do not really think the state’s policies need a referendum in these elections. Nevertheless, a clean sweep, which is what Mission 13 is all about, would help strengthen Punjab’s relevance and presence in the national polity,” she said.
Believing that there is no Modi factor in Congress-ruled Punjab, she said: “The BJP tries to divide people along communal lines for petty political gains, which Punjabis will never allow.”
“The so-called Modi factor failed to click in Punjab even during the 2017 polls, even though the BJP-led NDA government was still in its prime.”
The Akali Dal-BJP combine has fielded former minister Surjit Singh Rakhra from this seat. He was defeated by Preneet Kaur in 1999 polls by 78,000 votes.
The AAP has fielded Neena Mittal, an activist who worked for the party during the 2013 Delhi Assembly elections.
In the 15 general elections held in Punjab since 1957, the Congress won Patiala nine times while the Akali Dal, including its stalwart Gurcharan Singh Tohra, four times.
Punjab goes to the polls on May 19 for its 13 Lok Sabha seats. (Agency)