Chandigarh: People elect MLAs and in Punjab, they will choose their chief minister as well, not the Congress "high command", the party's state unit chief Navjot Singh Sidhu asserted on Tuesday.
Sidhu made the sharp retort amid speculation that the former cricketer is himself eyeing the top post if the Congress wins next month's assembly polls.
"The people of Punjab will make the CM. Who told you that the high command will make the CM?" he shot back at a reporter while answering a question on the party's possible pick for the post.
The Congress is yet to announce a CM face for the upcoming assembly polls and Charanjit Singh Channi, appointed the CM after the ouster of Amarinder Singh, is also being seen as a strong contender if the divided party wins.
As the campaign for the assembly polls picks up, Sidhu has at times targeted his own party's government in the state -- just like he did when Amarinder Singh was the chief minister.
"Listen to me. The people of Punjab had elected MLAs five years back. It is the people of Punjab to decide whether they become MLAs," continued Sidhu.
"Therefore, do not have a false implication (impression) in your mind. The people of Punjab will elect MLAs and the people of Punjab will make their CM too," he said.
The Punjab Congress president also said the party's first list of candidates for the February 14 assembly polls will be released within a week.
"The party has its own system," said Sidhu, elaborating that the list of probable candidates first goes for the verification, then to the screening committee and then the high command announces it.
"I think maybe the first lot could come in the next one week," he said.
The Congress screening committee is learnt to have made a consensus on the names of candidates for more than 50 assembly seats.
The Congress is yet to announce its candidate for the Punjab assembly polls.
Notably, the Shiromani Akali Dal had announced more than 90 candidates while the AAP had named over 100 contestants for the state assembly polls.
Replying to a question on Moga MLA Harjot Kamal, Sidhu said the MLA is his "personal friend".
"He is a very promising man. We will talk to him and we will settle it and sort it out," he stated.
Actor-philanthropist Sonu Sood's sister Malvika Sood on Monday had joined the Congress in Moga on Monday.
Asked if Malvika Sood will fight the election from Moga, Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi had replied, "Is there anything left to say now", indicating that she is the party's choice.
Punjab Congress chief Sidhu promised setting up of a state-owned liquor corporation for mobilising about Rs 25,000 crore of revenue if his party returns to power after the assembly polls.
He also promised to set up a state-run corporation for sand mining and a regulatory commission for the cable sector.
He said everyone claims that the Punjab exchequer is empty but nobody gives any roadmap on how to improve its financial health.
"If the right agenda is not given, you will be the same run-off-the-mill government that has been run by the two chief ministers for the last 25 years," he said.
Elaborating his plans to set up the state's liquor corporation, if the Congress returns to power in Punjab, Sidhu said it will regulate the liquor industry in Punjab.
It will have its own production units and the government-run distilleries across the state, he said.
Tamil Nadu is earning Rs 37,000 crore from liquor despite having half of Punjab's consumption, he said, adding, "The opening up of government-run liquor stores will help in generating employment for our people." On sand mining, he said this sector was largely run by the mafia benefitting a few powerful people in the system.
The sand is a natural property and therefore a property belonging to the state and its people, he stated.
"We have 1,300 km of the river bed which no other state has. States like Telangana is earning Rs 50 crore a week. We have a supply for 170 years.
"Sand is the government property," he said adding, "why cannot we have a sand mining corporation?" The sand mining policy, if implemented, has the potential of generating revenue of Rs 2,000 to Rs 3,000 crore in the next five years with a potential of creating 5,000 direct jobs and 15,000 to 20,000 indirect jobs in the sector.
He also talked of setting up a regulatory commission for the cable business sector to break the monopoly of a single player.
"We will open the system to multiple players to break the monopoly," he stated.
He talked about the transport policy and the outdoor advertisement regulation too.
He also spoke about the business of packaged water bottles, saying the state of Punjab will also create a commission which will start and regulate the business of the sale of packaged water bottles of Sutlej, Ravi and Beas.
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