My only condition for an alliance with the BJP was the resolution of the farmers' agitation, former Chief Minister of Punjab Amarinder Singh said about his new party's alliance with the BJP. "I have already met the Home Minister and spoken to him about an alliance. On Saturday, I hope to see the BJP president," he told NDTV, hinting that a formal announcement could be expected soon.
He said that a formal alliance with the BJP can be worked on now that the three contentious farm bills have been repealed and other issues raised by farmers are being discussed. Rubbishing swipes from the Congress that he doesn't actually have any MLAs supporting him, he said many Congress MLAs are eager to join him and are just waiting for the model code of conduct to be enforced.
Mr Singh also refuted Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi's comment that Mr Singh is harming his own chances in the assembly elections by allying with the BJP, which he claims has no support in the state. "As of today, our own feedback is that there's a total swing towards the BJP. Many Hindus are supporting the BJP and my party. There are 36% Hindus in Punjab and we are going to take up that chunk, more than the Congress. Hopefully, we will also get a lot of support from farmers," he said.
On BJP's communal language and tone, Mr Singh said he was not at all uncomfortable with it and cited the example of the Akali Dal that was in alliance with BJP for over two decades. Akalis are a party of Sikhs and they have had no problem with the BJP, he said, stressing that communalism wasn't an issue in Punjab. "I have never been involved in any way in any communal business, especially in Punjab. This has been one state where we call ourselves members of Punjabiyat, which means all the religions are part of one family," he said.
When asked about violent and abusive comments by some BJP leaders against the protesting farmers, Mr Singh dismissed them as rhetorical remarks made in the heat of the moment.
The former Congress leader had to unceremoniously resign as the state Chief Minister last month after a rebellion from his fellow MLAs following a crisis in the Punjab unit of the Congress party. He then announced his own party called the Punjab Lok Congress and said it would contest all 117 assembly seats in the upcoming assembly elections. He now says the seats are not confirmed yet as they will be shared between his party, BJP, and the Dhindsa faction of the Akalis. "We have done our own research and will sit across the table with our allies to decide how the seats will be shared," the former Chief Minister said.
Captain Singh didn't reveal any numbers when asked how many MLAs have approached him but said that three to four people are approaching them every day, even when his party's office is not ready yet. "We already have 30-40 applicants, and I can't reveal the numbers of sitting MLAs and MPs who are with us," Mr Singh said, adding that leaders from all parties, and not just the Congress, are approaching him.
"First, let's see who they (Congress) give tickets to. Punjab Congress president Mr (Navjot Singh) Sidhu has said 35 new faces will be given tickets. We will see if any of those people fit the bill, I know them better than he does," Mr Singh said.