At the peak of his struggle for a Jan Lokpal Bill, Arvind Kejriwal was challenged by mainstream political parties to fight them in an electoral battle. And on October 2, 2012, that is exactly what Mr. Kejriwal did when he floated the Aam Aadmi Party.
A few weeks before he faces his first ever election, Mr. Kejriwal talks to Smriti Kak Ramachandran about his political debut and the prospects of his party in the Delhi Assembly polls.
You accuse the government of financial mismanagement during the Commonwealth Games and reject its claims of development in the city.
Roughly, Delhi’s budget is Rs.40,000 crore a year, so in the past 15 years almost Rs.5 lakh crore have been spent. Another Rs.70 crore was spent on the CWG, so in all, about Rs.6 lakh crore has been spent so far. You can build a new city with that kind of money, do you see that spending anywhere in Delhi?
Where is the infrastructure? Only a few roads are good.Nearly 40 per cent of homes do not have water; in Sangam Vihar people have to buy water from private tankers.
In Sheila Dikshit’s own constituency, women have to climb down four floors to fetch water from the street. The interiors stink, the city is in a shambles. Do you call this development?
We agree some roads have been built, along with flyovers and the Delhi Metro, but that is hardly anything compared to what has been spent in the past 15 years.
The Congress is banking on votes from residents of unauthorised colonies that have been and will be regularised. Does this worry you?
Almost 40 per cent of Delhi stays in these colonies, we have to find a solution to this problem. These colonies came up because of active collusion between local politicians, who have taken huge amounts of money. Now, we need to regularise these colonies and provide basic infrastructure and punish the people who set them up.
Before every election the Congress comes and makes promises. On March 24, 2008, Sheila Dikshit passed a notification that they will regularise these colonies and give provisional certificates. People were very happy and voted for them. This was supposed to be done within a year, but it has been more than 5 years and the Congress is still making promises.
Recently a few candidates of your party withdrew from the fray. What were the reasons?
Elections, fighting and management, is not everyone’s cup of tea. Some of our dedicated members had been nominated as candidates, but gradually they found that it was not possible for them to contest, so we decided to replace them. They are still party workers.
The AAP walks the talk on corruption. When we found evidence of some party members and candidates not being clean, we took action against them.
What feedback have you got from the industry and traders’ bodies?
Until now, they were the traditional vote bank of the BJP, but we have had an interaction with large groups across Delhi. Essentially the policies that have been formed are not to support the traders, but to extort huge sums of money from them.
The loopholes in the policies are such that the inspector or the officer can make money from them. Traders are fed up. They want to pay taxes, but they are forced to pay bribes. VAT has been made so complicated that the traders are saying ‘Take taxes from me, but allow me to do my business’.
In industrial areas, there is no infrastructure, roads or electricity. Unless the government encourages trade and industry through proper infrastructure and appropriate policies, how can you generate employment and create wealth and collect taxes?
Is there consensus that you will be the Chief Minister if the AAP wins?
We don’t discuss these things. When we sit down to have meetings, we discuss two things — the strategy and what we will do.
Our goal is not to become the Chief Minister or a Minister. Our goal is to have a corruption-free country.
Today in Delhi, it is the AAP that is setting the political agenda and the Congress and the BJP seem to be following us.
In everything, whether it is strategy or issues. We talked about electricity, we said we will reduce the rates, 10 days later Vijay Goel started saying the same. We spoke about women’s safety, then they did the same. We said we will make 70 manifestos, they also said the same. We started door-to-door campaigning and through social media, they started it too. It appears they had no clue on how campaigning and politics is done.