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Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Thursday said Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi had the potential to become the Prime Minister of the country and the time was right for a generational change in the Congress to cater to the aspirations of the over 70% youth population of the country.
In a wide-ranging interview with senior journalist Vir Sanghvi on his `Rising Punjab 2017’ show for News18CNN, the Chief Minister spoke about his government’s plans to revive agriculture and industry in the state, while reiterating his commitment to completely wipe out the drugs mafia, which was now struggling to survive in the face of his government’s massive crackdown.
From power to unemployment,

"> border killings, and Rahul Gandhi’s ability to lead the Congress, Captain Amarinder, in his usual frank style, opened up on a whole gamut of issues impacting his government and the party, as well as the interest of the nation.
The Chief Minister rubbished Niti Aayog’s plans to tax farmers, saying such a move would threaten the survival of the state’s farmers, who were already reeling under the burden of huge debts, forcing many of them to take the extreme step of committing suicide.
Reiterating his support in favour of Rahul’s capability to take on the party reins, Captain Amarinder, giving his professional assessment on Rahul, said he had always found the AICC vice president extremely perceptive and decisive. There was a deliberate attempt to undermine his image by calling him names, he said, adding that Rahul had the potential to become the Prime Minister of the country.
The Chief Minister exuded confidence over the response by investors and industry to the change in dispensation in the state, saying his government had, in just six weeks, been able to build their confidence. He endorsed his claim by adding that the Bathinda refinery was all set for a Rs. 20,000 crore expansion.
On the ticklish issue of drugs, Captain Amarinder said while he could turn things around overnight, his government had succeeded in creating the right enabling environment for the elimination of drugs, which were now becoming increasingly less available, as was evidenced in the spike in their prices. The number of youth going to rehabilitation centres was another indication that his government had successfully broken the backbone of the drugs mafia, which he had promised to the people of Punjab, said the Chief Minister.
However, he was quick to point out that it would be difficult to wean youth completely away from drugs without giving them employment, to which his government was committed. Industrial revival would lead to the large-scale creation of employment opportunities in the state, said the Chief Minister, adding that he had received extremely positive response from the industry for investment in the state. With 90 lakh youth in Punjab either unemployed or underemployed, his government was going all out with efforts to generate employment, he added.
Referring to the state of agriculture in Punjab, the Chief Minister said his government was working to encourage farmers, about 70% of whom were small farmers, to diversify and shift from paddy to high cash crops. Such small farmers, with less than 5 acres each of land, could not survive imposition of taxes as envisaged by the Niti Aayog, he added.
While he gave due credit to the previous government in the state for creating surplus power, which he had sought the Prime Minister’s permission to sell to Pakistan and Nepal, the Chief Minister came down heavily on the Badals for the huge debt they had left behind, leaving the Congress government with no money to pay salaries or for development.
Besides bringing economic growth back on track, his government was working to improve education and health in the state, said Captain Amarinder, adding that without good schooling, higher education remained a problem, which was also reflected in the fact that Punjabis were not faring too well in competitive exams, including those for Army recruitment.
To a question about the border killings, the Chief Minister said while killings and skirmishes had been going on for long, the kind of brutality we see now was not there earlier. Incidents like the recent mutilation of the bodies of two Indian jawans were understandably provoking the wrath of the people and the Indian Army needed to counter such acts effectively, he asserted. However, striking a note of caution, he said that in the long term, both India and Pakistan needed to think about peace and the future of the coming generations.
Without mincing words, Captain Amarinder once again repeated that Khalistani sympathisers sitting in Canada were misleading people with false information and he would not allow the peace and stability of Punjab to be destroyed by such elements at any cost.
To another question, the Chief Minister said while Punjabi language accorded due prominence, it was important also to promote English to enable the youth to find jobs in the competitive global market.
In a lighter vein, Captain Amarinder said he loves arguing and keeps arguing on Facebook through the night, well into the wee hours of the morning, to put his point across. “One also gets to know the `sach’ (truth) of youngsters in this manner,” he quipped.

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