Debunking the politics of hate and use of the divisive Hindu versus Muslim hate card, incumbent Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal is certain of securing a second term. The combative yet candid Kejriwal was dismissive of polarising politics asserting that his model of ‘kaam ki rajniti’ will work.
Citing proof of concept as his credo, Kejriwal was categorical that his ‘bijli’, ‘pani’, ‘swasth’ and ‘shiksha’ template was not based on subsidy, but by saving money through rooting out corruption which existed in the system.
In an extensive conversation he said that the ‘bania’ last ‘dimag’ and skillsets learnt from pursuing mechanical engineering and his stint in the revenue service have given him the necessary heft to administer effectively. Excerpts:
Q: You have been given many labels in the course of your political journey like ‘anarchist’, ‘agitationist’, ‘urban guerrilla’ and now even ‘terrorist’. Please tell us about your journey?
A: Greetings to you all. This election will establish a new kind of politics in this country. When our government started working five years back, we knew nothing about politics, we still don’t. People used to ask us if we were mad to improve schools and hospitals instead of securing the vote banks of Brahmins, Banias, Scheduled Castes, Muslims and Hindus. But this is not what we came here to do. We continued to work on schools, hospitals, water and power. This election is being fought on these basic issues. You can send your camera team on the streets and ask people and all those who say they will vote for AAP will tell you the list of things we have done for them. If we are successful in these polls, it will herald a new kind of politics called ‘Kaam ki rajniti’ (politics of public welfare).
These are the kind of issues people will vote all over the country. This is what our opponents do not want. They have put in all their might to defeat us. I’m up against 200 opposition MPs, 10 CMs and 70 Union ministers and a cross-section of several parties like Congress, BJP, RJD, BSP, Akali Dal and LJP, as they do not want this new type of politics to be successful. They are hurling all kinds of abuses against me, calling me ‘traitor’, ‘terrorist’, ‘anti-national’, ‘Raavan’ and ‘thug’.
Q: Arvind, you say you are a greenhorn in politics but you are giving a tough fight to the ‘Chanakya’ of Indian politics. He has told people to press the EVM button so hard that the electric shock is felt all the way to Shaheen Bagh. Is he targeting you?
A: You see, our opponents were given the mandate to take care of the municipal corporations by the people, while our task was to improve the schools. They couldn’t handle it, they reduced Delhi to a garbage dump in 15 years of their rule. They were responsible for controlling crime, but again they failed. So they have nothing positive to show to the people. They also cannot find any fault with our work. They tried to show fake videos of our schools and Mohalla Clinics. Now they are just left with the Shaheen Bagh issue and the same old Hindu-Muslim divisive politics.
I say I will build schools and hospitals, but they keep chanting ‘Shaheen Bagh’. What is the real issue in Shaheen Bagh? There is this road where these protesters have gathered. They have to be shifted away somewhere where they can continue to protest because ordinary people are facing a lot of inconveniences. School buses and ambulances cannot pass through that road. But a powerful Home Minister like Amit Shah cannot get that road vacated? No one is going to believe that Amit Shah cannot get a single road cleared. Shah will have nothing to talk about and it is all dirty politics. They are just raking up the issue and troubling the people of Delhi.
Q: Your four-pronged campaign of water, power, education and health has been quite successful. But has the BJP managed to upstage you in the past few days of the campaign? You seem to have peaked too early while the momentum has shifted to the BJP?
A: They come on TV and say this, but I am not sure they have won people’s hearts. A BJP supporter was asked on TV, who he will vote for and he said though he was a traditional BJP voter, he would vote for AAP this time. He said he was a poor man and a nation can progress only when the less privileged section of the society progresses. He also said ‘Kejriwal cared about me and my child’s education’. He was asked about Shaheen Bagh and he said it is all the BJP’s doing, and only Kejriwal will work for us for the next five years. These opposition people can only appear on TV.
Q: Do you think you have lost the momentum in the last few days due to the BJP’s aggressive campaigning?
A: The public understands everything. They know Shaheen Bagh is of no use to them. It is a political drama. They are deliberately not clearing that road as it serves their political interest to keep the public in trouble.
Q: There are other opposition leaders also, but why are they hell-bent on destroying you? Are you so important?
A: Politics is important as our work in schools and Mohalla Clinics is being discussed around the world. So, they are afraid of that. Delhi is the only state to give 24-hour free electricity. This is a wonder and they can’t match it.
Q: Are you following good politics but bad economics over this subsidy model?
A: The Gujarat CM has spent Rs 190 crore on a new aeroplane, while I used Rs 190 crore to make water and power cheap. So you can compare.
Q: Amit Shah says you are bankrupting Delhi with the ‘freebies’ model of governance?
A: The CAG has itself said that Delhi is the most profitable state in the country. All other states are in losses despite not giving any freebies. We slashed taxes, didn’t take any loans, but we curbed wasteful expenses and went after corruption and used the money saved to provide facilities to the people.
Q: Did a ‘Bania’s’ mind benefit you?
A: Yes, a ‘Bania’s’ mind was good for me and also that of a mechanical engineer.
Q: Had the court verdict come earlier, would it have helped you?
A: Yes, as we have got the powers in the last one-and-a-half years only. The verdict was very helpful for us.
Q: Are these ideas of free water and power your own thinking or did someone suggest them to you?
A: See, I am a common man. You have been to my flat in Kaushambi. I know the pain of the common man. You must have also faced it when water, power bills came and kids’ education bills had to be paid. I have also faced them and I’m trying to solve these problems of the common man. Just to give him some relief.
Q: The first three years must have been miserable for you with all the cases against your MLAs and you, till the final verdict came. How did you cope?
A: It was very tough… False cases were slapped on me. In fact, there are 33 cases on me. All false cases. The police and other officials were rebuked by the courts also. They spared no effort to crush us and our party, as we were new. They just wanted power alternating between the BJP and the Congress. But God was with us and they failed to crush us.
Q: If you return to power, what will be your priorities… like statehood, Jan Lokpal?
A: In many things we have to cooperate with the Centre. Other things like free water… Those we will give. Roads can be improved and cleaned. Pollution can be curbed and transportation can be improved.
Q: You have been accused of giving biryani to protesters in Shaheen Bagh and funding them?
A: If the BJP is benefiting from the issue, why should I help them (protesters)? I am not a fool.
Q: Has the BJP succeeded in polarising the elections?
A: As the BJP supporter himself has said, it is all BJP’s drama. But the public is smart.
Q: Has anti-CAA protests hurt the BJP?
A: They should resolve the issue, and the concerns. But it will have no impact on Delhi polls.
Q: Your base mainly comprises the poor. Did BJP’s move on illegal colonies’ regularisation hurt your image?
A: There are two separate issues of jhuggies and illegal colonies. Now, the BJP has suddenly remembered jhuggiwallas. Same thing used to happen with the Congress. They would remember these poor people only before elections. I gave houses to 10,000 jhuggiwalas. They just make hollow promises, while we actually give houses to the poor. We have improved facilities in 1,281 ‘kucchi’ colonies. They promised registry to 40 lakh people, but only 20 lakh got it so far. Even that is fake. They are only obsessed with Shaheen Bagh.
Q: AAP is a unique phenomenon in last 20 yrs of Indian politics, can you explain this phenomenon. People say Kejriwal is an autocrat, not a democrat, with a close coterie?
A: Who is a democrat? Modi? Shah? Rahul Gandhi? Sonia Gandhi? This all nonsense. People are fed up of all these parties. AAP brought fresh energy to politics. In 2015 people voted for honest politics and this time they will vote for ‘Kaam ki Rajniti’, a new kind of politics different from Congress and BJP.
Q: PM Modi says Kejriwal and Mamata refuse to implement central schemes like Ayushman Bharat?
A: Not correct. If the scheme is good we will implement it. But there has to be a debate. You cannot thrust it on anyone. We have our own health care scheme for 2 crore Delhiites. Even you can get free treatment on Delhi Government hospitals with free medicines and free surgery. For rich and poor alike. We will bear all the costs. But the Centre has imposed such conditions so as to implement only their schemes.
Q: Where do u get your resources and funding from? You are on hoardings, newspapers and radio?
A: All thanks to the kindness of people like yourself. We might even ask you for a donation after this interview.
Q: What is your estimate of how many seats you will win?
A: I’m confident people of Delhi will give us a good mandate. I appeal to the people through your channel to again vote for us like they did last time when they gave us 67 out of 70 seats. This time also they should give us the power of their vote so that we can keep doing our work.
Q: You must have done an internal survey, any estimate or number you can give us?
A: I really have no idea. The people are smart and they will decide. I am confident about my work and I think we will get a good majority. I am also confident that BJP and Congress supporters will vote for us. I want to tell them that we have worked very hard in the past 5 years, so please remain with your party but vote for us this time. Because if you vote for others then all our work in education and health will suffer.
Q: There has been a ‘Parivartan’ in you like the NGO you worked with. Now you are smarter and don’t allow loose balls to your opponents to hit for a six?
So u think I am better now or worse (laughs)? Who do you give credit for the work done by your government?
A: All the 2 crore people of Delhi are our volunteers. The parents of children we put in school will want us to return to power. They will spread the word about our good work. All people who now get 24-hr power. All these are our campaigners and volunteers. They are our real power.
Q: Do you think you could have done more in improving Delhi’s infrastructure?
A: We have created a lot of infrastructure, Signature Bridge, 27 flyovers were built, Metro was expanded but schools and hospitals were highlighted as on one had worked to improve them before.
Yogi Adityanath came here telling people that Kejriwal has destroyed schools and hospital and that his party will make them like schools and hospitals of Uttar Pradesh. People laughed at him. Haryana CM ML Khattar also came but had to beat a hasty retreat. (IANS)