Punjab BJP president Ashwani Sharma, in Interview with Sanjeev Singh Biana and Vishav Bhharti, expressed concern that the industry was shifting its base to other countries due to security concerns. Citing the increased sighting of drones, recovery of RDX and bomb blasts, he claimed it’s only the BJP that could keep the border state secure and bring it back on the rails. Excerpts:
Coming out of the SAD’s shadow, the BJP has pitched itself as the majority partner in the new alliance with Capt Amarinder’s PLC and Sukhdev Dhindsa’s SAD(S). Is the BJP ready to play the big role?
Three decades ago, the SAD and the BJP forged an ‘apolitical’ alliance. The dark days of terrorism were over, and Punjab needed a front to ensure peace and brotherhood. At that time, we decided to forge an alliance socially rather than promote our political agendas. Even though we won 23 seats, the workers supported the alliance in 94 of the remaining seats. We are now reaching out and showcasing the political potential in our party to people.
Security is being politicized
We are seeing drones, witnessing bomb explosions, and recovering RDX. Industries have been forced to close down or relocate their base. Ours is a border country, but politics is being played on its security. When the Centre increased the area of BSF’s authority from 15 km to 50 km, the Congress cried foul.
Madan Mohan Mittal, a senior leader in the BJP, resigned and joined the SAD. Your party leaders expressed concern about the developments. Your comments.
Madan Mohan Mittal was the leader of our party during difficult times due to terrorism. It is very sad when a leader of this stature leaves the party. But, I believe that people make poor decisions due to their personal preferences. Sometimes, a person makes a mistake in his decision. However, it is always the other party that is in loss.
At least two-thirds (or more) of the ticket has been given to members who joined the party just recently by the BJP. This has caused resentment among some old workers.
Before announcing the ticket, our party conducted several surveys. Not all newcomers were granted the chance. Only those considered deserving were allowed to apply. They are treated the same as all other party workers.
Some leaders who were denied the ticket have accused the BJP of not giving them the respect that they deserved. What’s your opinion?
Several leaders were disappointed after the ticket distribution. We heard them. They are back at work. Discipline is a key component of our party. We are not like any other party, where leaders speak out and contest in their own way.
Your old ally SAD is now a partner with the BSP. Is there a chance you could both join an alliance again?
The SAD voted to leave the alliance. Earlier, many a time our workers said we should leave the SAD, but we didn’t. The BJP now has a chance of bringing about a state turnaround on its own.
In the past 20 years, the Chief Ministers have changed, but not the issues — be it unemployment, drugs or corruption. Today, we have made a commitment to the people that we will make a ‘New Punjab’.
Are drugs and sacrilege big problems for the state?
Drug abuse is the greatest problem. Many brave soldiers and athletes have been made possible by Punjab. This is Shaheed Bhagat Sin. It is unfortunate when it is called ‘a haven for drugs’. We are committed to ending the drug menace in Punjab, just like our zero tolerance policy for terrorists. All those involved in drug and sacrilege will face severe punishment.
The BJP has been criticized for its contentious farm laws. They have now been scrapped. This has also led to a five-cornered contest for Punjab. Will one party win the majority?
While everyone has the right to protest the actions of others, the forces behind the agitation wanted to push Punjab back into darkness. These forces wanted to end the Hindu-Sikh union. The Prime Minister was able to understand the situation and rescinded the farm laws in the national interest. During the agitation protesters claimed they were not part of a political front. They have now taken the poll plunge. They have the right, but it was not right of them to prevent us from carrying out our activities. Our leaders were also attacked. This is not democracy.
Due to joblessness, large numbers are leaving the state as youth. What is the solution?
Today, Punjab requires a secure environment. Only then will we be able to think of progress. Because they don’t have security and are constantly under threat, the industry is either leaving or considering leaving. We are seeing drones, witnessing bomb blasts, and recovering RDX. This has resulted in industries closing down or shifting their base. What makes an investor invest in a state like this? While ours is a border country, politics is being played on its safety. When the Centre increased the area of the BSF’s authority from 15 km to 50 km, the Congress cried foul.
We also need institutes with the right skills to support the industry. A Pepsi unit is located in Pathankot. There isn’t even one local there. Why? They lack the skills required.
Do you think Covid curbs had an impact on campaigning?
All citizens must follow the Covid guidelines. The BJP doesn’t work during elections, but throughout the year. The ban on rallies and other restrictions does not affect a cadre-based party such as us. Our campaigning is not affected.
Why is Gurdaspur MP Sunny Deoln not seen much in his constituency?
He represents us in Parliament, and is doing his work efficiently. He was responsible for funding bridges in our region and he also implemented various programmes. He attends party meetings on a regular basis.