CHANDIGARH: In remarks aimed at burying the hatchet and ensuring a smooth working relationship, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh today said he will be calling upon Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday, March 22, and termed his relationship with Arun Jaitley as "cordial." Amarinder Singh had defeated Arun Jaitley in the Amritsar Lok Sabha poll in 2014 by more than one lakh votes, and both had exchanged sharp verbal barbs.
"When I became the Chief Minister last time, Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister. I got full support from the Prime Minister, from the then Finance Minister Jaswant Singh, and also from Arun Jaitley who was then the Law Minister," Amarinder Singh said when asked in an interview if he foresees any problem with a BJP dispensation at the Centre and an all powerful Modi calling the shots.
Asked about his relationship with Arun Jaitley, Amarinder said, "When I was an MP and he was in the Rajya Sabha, we used to bump into each other...I did not feel any animosity. The relations are cordial."
Amarinder Singh also seemed to be giving Akali Dal some importance, going to the extent of mathematical computations to underline that Akalis actually performed better than the Aam Aadmi Party. "Akali Dal will be a bigger challenge for us as they have been in existence for a hundred years...the AAP has been sliding. It was a bubble that has burst," Amarinder said, and then elaborated: "Akalis did not fight all 117 seats, they left some (23: Ed) for the BJP. So, percentage wise, Akalis have more seats than AAP since AAP had fought on all 117 seats." AAP won 20 seats while its alliance partner Lok Insaaf Party won two. Akali Dal won 15 and BJP won three seats. Congress has 77.
Amarinder also ruled out his government following any vendetta politics. "There is a constitution in this country, there is a law. You can't come into government and start throwing people into jail...If something comes up, government will act and courts will decide...There will be no vendetta. No vendetta politics. We have too many other problems to bother about."
In a clear indication that IPS officer Harpreet Singh Sidhu, selected to head the Special Task Force (STF) to stem the drug menace, will be given much prominence in the scheme of things, Amarinder Singh said Sidhu will be given full freedom to select his own men, "right till the last man on the ground" and he will have the power to go after anyone he believed was involved in drug trade.
"Today, I met the SSPs and DCs of Punjab, and I have told them that everyone will have to work with this Special Task Force working from my office...We will break the back of chitta-sellers. We will give Harpreet Sidhu a free hand. He is being allowed to pick his men and has total freedom to catch whoever needs to be caught," Amarinder Singh said.