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Delhi Assembly election: BJP has no discourse, but desperate for a win, says Arvind Kejriwal

 

I am seeking votes on the basis of performance and desperate BJP has started abusing me, says Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said on February 5 that he was seeking votes from the people of Delhi on the basis of kaam ki rajniti, or the politics of delivery, that had been demonstrated by his government.

A desperate BJP, he said, had been unable to find any shortcomings in the performance of his government in the areas of electricity, water, schools and education. It had, instead, started abusing him.

In an interview to The Hindu, Mr. Kejriwal said, “They are unable to find any shortcomings in our work. What they ferret out, it doesn’t stick…they want to divert attention from our work. Sometimes they bring Shaheen Bagh; sometimes they do Hindu-Muslim.”

The Chief Minister said his government’s honest intentions, or saaf niyat, set it apart from other governments in the country.

Edited excerpts from the interview:

Is this an election about AAP’s governance record versus the issues of identity and religion?

The work that has been done by AAP is extraordinary compared to what has happened in the last 70 years in the country. They [governments run by other political parties] ruined the services of electricity, water, schools and the hospitals. People had also lost all hope that a government can do anything. They [rival parties including the BJP] don’t have an answer to what we have done in the past five years. They are unable to find any shortcomings in our work. What they ferret out, it doesn’t stick. They don’t have any discourse. Now, they want to divert attention from our work. Sometimes they bring Shaheen Bagh; sometimes they do Hindu-Muslim.

You have been Delhi’s Chief Minister for five years now. If voted to power again, what is your vision for Delhi?

Our last five years has given hope to the entire nation — things can be done. If we have been able to fix government schools and hospitals, then it means they had been deliberately left in a poor shape. We had been kept poor and illiterate for the last 70 years. If all this could be done in five years, it could have been done in 70 years as well. This hope kindled in the country by AAP’s governance in the past five years, this is a big deal — actually, it’s a new kind of politics.

So, how were you able to accomplish this? Other governments have also tried to fix things.

Our niyat [intention] was saaf [honest]. The difference was only about intention. If you do something and the intention is to make money out of it, then you look at issues completely differently. And, if the intention is to do the job properly, then you look at it totally differently. Niyat is at the root of the difference. Since, our intentions were honest, we were able to accomplish so many things in the past five years. Electricity, water, education and health are the four success areas of my government.

You have been accused of giving freebies like waiving electricity bills or free rides to women on public buses in Delhi.

What is our fault? If I was giving things free and raising your taxes, [if] our budget was in the red, or [we] took loans to make things free, then it would be problematic. Our budget is positive. In other parts of the country, State government budgets are in the red. The Central budget, too, is in the red. Five years ago, that was the case in Delhi as well. We reduced taxes from 12% to 5%, we didn’t take any loans; what we did was to end corruption. That’s why we were able to save money. If I am using that money to give relief to the people, what’s the harm in it? What’s the problem?

When you say nothing was done in 70 years, you seem to exclude what Sheila Dikshit did in Delhi, which includes the metro.

She did improve infrastructure; brought buses and constructed the metro and flyovers. But all this was done at the time of the Commonwealth Games, in those two-three years. So, that was an extraordinary period.

The BJP has unleashed all its big guns against you — Prime Minister Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, U.P. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. Why do you think this is the case?

Nothing is working for them. First, Amit Shah collected all the parties against us. It’s for the first time that BJP, LJP, JD(U) and Akali Dal are all contesting the election together. That didn’t work. Then they brought 200 MPs. That too didn’t work. Then came 70 ministers and 10 Chief Ministers. That also didn’t work.

And, then they started their abuse. This shows that kaam ki rajniti [the politics of delivery] is very powerful. Electricity, water, schools, roads, nullahsand streets — they have been unable to match this. Their entire politics is failing.

So, are you saying, you will be able to win this election on the basis of your performance?

I feel the people have made up their minds. People appreciate the work we have done.

At your public meetings, you raise the slogans of ‘Inquilab Zindabad’ and ‘Vande Mataram’ together. This is a new phenomenon in Indian politics. What is the message you are trying to convey?

Our party is the product of the [anti-corruption] Anna [Hazare] movement. This was a nationalist movement with wide acceptance — left, right and centre — all kinds of people were part of it. The country has to decide what is deshbhakti [patriotism]. Educating children is patriotism or dividing people in the name of Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh, is patriotism? Is getting people medical treatment patriotism, or calling Kejriwal a terrorist, patriotism? Is making roads patriotism, or abusing Kejriwal, patriotism? Is providing electricity patriotism or saying ‘goli maro’ [shoot people], patriotism? The people will have to decide.

There are many people who say that it will be ‘Modi at the Centre’ and ‘Kejriwal in Delhi’. Does this show that Modi and Kejriwal have a common support base?

Everyone is part of our support base. I say I will teach your child. You tell me one person who will say ‘don’t educate my child’. I educate the Congress person’s child and the BJP person’s child. I teach a Hindu child and a Muslim child; everyone’s child. I get everyone access to treatment. This is real deshbhakti. From this, 21st century India will be created. Our country can become the most advanced in the world. Inside, I am convinced. Our people are so intelligent. The problem is that the systems in our country are bad. Our politics is bad. These need to be fixed. When I say these systems need to be changed, they say I am anarchist.

The country stands divided on the CAA-NRC. How do you see the politics around it playing out?

I have said again and again that 21st century India cannot be achieved through CAA and NRC. Such an India can be achieved when we have industry, shops will be opened, when people get jobs, where India moves ahead in science and technology, when we do research, only then will 21st century India become reality.

Your mohalla health clinics have found appreciation. In a possible second term, will you fix the Delhi-government run hospitals?

Our 35 hospitals have improved. Overcrowding is a problem, and we will fix this. Many new hospitals are in the pipeline. They will start in the next three-four years.

You came up with the odd-even scheme to check air pollution in the capital. But we still have terrible air quality. What is the plan to fix this?

We will do vacuum cleaning to curb dust pollution, improve transport facilities by bringing in new buses. We hope this will reduce two-wheeler use. We also need to know the real time sources of pollution. Without this, as an administrator, I can’t act. We are setting up a full lab from April 1, where I will come to know what is the real time cause of pollution at this time. Then we can close down this activity.

You got into some major conflicts with the Lieutenant Governor and the Centre over how Delhi should be run. After five years in power, do you think Delhi will ever get full Statehood?

I think the time has come to give Delhi full Statehood. The Centre should realise this and, in the larger interest, Delhi should be made a full State.

You supported downsizing the State of Jammu & Kashmir into a Union Territory. The Opposition Congress suggests this is a double standard when you seek full Statehood for Delhi.

I don’t think so. We thought this was in the country’s interest and took a decision [to support it].

Do you see the Congress as a contender in the current elections?

The surveys coming in suggest that the Congress is settling for two-three per cent of the vote share [in the 2015 Assembly polls, the Congress got 9.8% of the popular vote].

You have completed, against pretty formidable odds, a full term in office. How do you feel about it?

There’s no doubt that tackling those obstacles was extremely difficult. I hope that in the next five years, the Central and Delhi government will be able to work together. It’s made me more experienced and more patient.