Patiala has been the pocket borough for its royal family and sitting MP Preneet Kaur. However, this time, it is being said that the General Elections 2014 will not be a cakewalk for Congress. Shiromani Akali Dal has put up a strong candidate Deepinder Singh Dhillon, who has worked for years with Preneet Kaur and is now vowing to unseat her. In an interview with Akrita Reyar, Dhillon speaks about the reasons why he has picked up the gauntlet.
1. The battle is most interesting in Patiala. The Maharani of Patiala Preneet Kaur would be fighting against you – her former protégé and aide – what are your thoughts on that?
This is a battle for development and against a non-performing MP who has been running only after ministerial berths and other high positions in the central government at the cost of neglecting this constituency and its people since years. I think that the range and impact of people’s issues over an individual’s personal achievements are always wider and remarkable.
2. I was seeing an article where you have come out with some truths against the misdoings of Preneet Kaur, would you like to shed light on that?
I don’t know which article you are talking about. I have highlighted an important issue pertaining to her bank account in a London-based bank which she concealed while filing her nomination papers.
3. It is alleged that the only reason that you turned against the Congress and the royal family is because you were not given a ticket from Dera Bassi in the last assembly elections, after which you broke ranks and contested as an Independent. And the differences were neither ideological nor issue based?
I don’t buy your perception. In politics, ideology and loyalty go hand in hand. When anyone compromises on the ideology, the loyalty has to suffer also. I left the Congress only on Ideological issues as Preneet started compromising on ideology by prioritising her family over the party, and I parted my ways with it on that account.
4. What made you join hands with the Akali Dal?
After parting my ways with the Congress, I fought the 2012 assembly election as an Independent candidate from Dera Bassi constituency and secured 51000 votes against SAD candidate, who won this seat with a nominal margin of 12000 votes. This election proved my credentials as a leader of masses in the region and the rest is history.
5. Though you have worked in Patiala with former Maharani Preneet Kaur, it has been said that you are an outsider, how are you countering that when you campaign for votes?
I have been working in this constituency since the last 18 years. I know about the problems and aspirations of the people of this region. I have travelled in every nook and corner of this constituency and understand very well what is needed for development of this region. People here know me better than my rival Preneet Kaur as she has remained elusive in all these years to the constituency as well as to the common man.
6. Patiala has been a stronghold of the Congress for the past many years, what is your strategy of breaking into the bastion?
That was a thing of the past. Now, people are really very disappointed with the Congress party as well as its leaders. Despite being a royal family member representing this constituency since the last 15 years, it lags behind in everything from having basic infrastructure to job opportunities for the youth. People feel cheated as even after reposing their faith in the Maharani for consecutive three terms, the constituency is still crying for development.
7. Will the anti-incumbency against the UPA government at the Centre provide rich dividends to BJP-Akali combine or will local issues have a greater bearing in these elections?
There is a strong anti-incumbency against the Congress-led UPA at the Centre, which is mobilising the electorate for a change at the central government. It is apparent to all that the next government will be formed by the NDA under the leadership of Shri Narendra Modi. Being an ally of NDA, the SAD candidates are getting great response, as their prospect for getting ministerial berths after formation of new government at the Centre is making the game easy for them.
8. In your view, how will the entry of Aam Aadmi Party — which has put up Dharamvira Gandhi as a candidate — affect the outcome? Being a social worker, he could spoil things for Congress in urban areas and for you in rural regions.
AAP’s effect is confined to only a few pockets of urban areas which are traditionally known as Congress dominated areas. In rural areas, the AAP does not have any influence. So it would prove bane for the Congress and boon for us.
9. Would people like Balwant Singh Rajoana’s sister Kamaldeep Kaur, CPI’s Nirmal Singh Dhaliwal and BSP’s Ram Singh Dhiman have an impact or could they play spoilers?
The probability of votes they — all together — will be grabbing is likely to remain below the mark of 70,000. In this way they could, to some extent, play spoilers only for the Congress, but not for us.
10. If elected as an MP, what do you plan to deliver for the people of Patiala?
As I earlier said, I am fighting this election with the sole aim of putting this constituency on the road of development and prosperity. It was for that reason the people of this region had been giving their mandate to the sitting MP Preneet Kaur since last 15 years, but she has failed them badly. I would try my best to restore their faith in good politics and best governance.