By Jaideep Sarin
Chandigarh, March 26 (IANS) Amarinder Singh has set the political temperature soaring after the Congress announced he would take on BJP heavyweight Arun Jaitley in Amritsar and the confident former Punjab chief minister who belongs to an erstwhile royal family says “we will fight them and beat them”.
Amarinder, a former army officer, after his initial reluctance to contest the Lok Sabha elections this time, has come out all guns blazing against Jaitley and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Known for his political attitude of taking his opponents head-on, Amarinder has already started firing salvos at Jaitley and Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal.
“Jaitley is an outsider in Amritsar. He is trying to create his Punjabi roots with Amritsar when there are none. He has no idea about the area,” Amarinder pointed out, adding that people from Amritsar were reaching out to him after his name was announced for the seat.
“We will fight them (BJP and Akali Dal) and we will beat them. I have drawn out my sword and it won’t go back till the battle is over,” Amarinder told IANS in an interview here.
With the Congress announcing his candidature for Amritsar, Amarinder knows that the Akali Dal and the BJP will have to give all they have to beat him.
At a rally, Badal tried to woo the electorate saying that Jaitley would be the next deputy prime minister of the country.
“Badal is a known liar. He does not know what the inner thinking in the BJP is. Let him bring a BJP resolution stating that Jaitley will be the deputy PM. Badal says such things to whip up support,” said Amarinder who was himself an Akali Dal leader for almost 10 years and is a bitter critic of Badal.
Having initially shown his reluctance to contest from Amritsar saying that he “won’t be able to do justice to the constituency as a MP”, Amarinder says that he is all geared up for the big fight.
“I never said that I will not contest. When Mrs (Sonia) Gandhi asked me if I would contest from Amritsar, I told her that my experience could be better utilised (for campaigning) across Punjab. But once the decision (on fielding him) was taken, I am all set for the fight,” he said.
“I have been given full assurance by the Congress president and (Congress vice president) Rahul Gandhi that the entire Congress leadership and resources will be behind me for this contest,” said Amarinder, 72, who comes from the erstwhile royal family of Patiala.
Amarinder’s wife, union Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur, is seeking re-election to the Patiala Lok Sabha seat on the Congress ticket.
This is the first time that the couple is contesting at the same time.
All 13 Lok Sabha constituencies in Punjab go to the polls April 30.
The ruling Akali Dal-BJP alliance in Punjab, which edged out sitting BJP MP from Amritsar, cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu, from the seat and brought in Jaitley to contest for the `safe’ seat could find the Amritsar election a tough political test.
(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at email@example.com)