Will always be available, accountable, and answerable to my voters, says AAP’s New Delhi candidate

Updated - May 17, 2024 01:15 am IST

Published - May 16, 2024 11:51 pm IST - New Delhi

Somnath Bharti being greeted by supporters after filing his nomination as AAP’s New Delhi candidate for the ongoing Lok Sabha election.

Somnath Bharti being greeted by supporters after filing his nomination as AAP’s New Delhi candidate for the ongoing Lok Sabha election. | Photo Credit: SUSHIL KUMAR VERMA

Known in his constituency for using even a walk in the park as an opportunity to resolve the problems in his area, Somnath Bharti, Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) New Delhi candidate for the ongoing general election, hopes to do the same if he is elected to the Lok Sabha this year.

“For this election, I plan to cover over 30 parks in the constituency. This takes care of two things — I get to speak to people as an ordinary man instead of a politician, and it will also do wonders for my health,” he laughs.

A lawyer by profession, the three-time Malviya Nagar MLA was born to a sanyasi (hermit) and a teacher in Bihar’s Nawada in 1974. His tryst with activism in his college years pushed him down the path of politics, and he went on to become one of AAP’s founding members following his participation in the India Against Corruption movement.

“All my friends and colleagues left the country in search of a better future, but my desire to serve the nation kept me here, despite the fact that politics was not initially on the cards,” Mr. Bharti says.

The AAP candidate boasts an extensive resume — he routed the Congress in its bastion, Malviya Nagar Assembly seat, in 2013, and held onto the constituency in subsequent State elections in 2016 and 2020, winning a higher vote share each time. He has also in the past served as a Minister of Law, Administrative Reforms, and Art and Culture in the Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi government, as well as the Vice-Chairman of the Delhi Jal Board and member of the Delhi Development Authority.

A long-time trusted aide of the Chief Minister, Mr. Bharti says that the “lasting impression” he has left on his constituency stems from how accessible he is to his people, who keep filtering in and out of his office to put forth requests ranging from the booking of banquet halls to securing beds for family members in hospitals.

“The three As — accountability, availability and answerability — have helped me become a better MLA, and I will bring the same qualities to the table if I win this Lok Sabha election,” he says.

In his roadshows held in support of Mr. Bharti, Mr. Kejriwal has often reminded the crowds that the AAP candidate has built his career from the ground up, unlike his opponent, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate Bansuri Swaraj, who is the daughter of former Union Minister Sushma Swaraj. Ms. Swaraj, Mr. Kejriwal has said, is a symbol of dynastic politics — something the BJP claims it doesn’t practise.

During the 2022 Municipal Corporation of Delhi polls, Mr. Bharti was instrumental in AAP candidates winning in the 10 wards assigned to him which were considered BJP bastions, helping the party secure a majority in the election. The Chief Minister has also credited Mr. Bharti for introducing the ‘Mohalla’ WhatsApp groups, where the people of Delhi can directly relay their grievances to their elected MLAs.

Emotive issues

“I was told by everyone that law is the only way to make a change, so I tied my faith to the judiciary and went on to become a lawyer,” Mr. Bharti says while sitting in his well-stocked library, adding that “lawyers and books go together”.

The cases he fought propelled him to fight for people’s rights, he says. One such case was of Vikram Buddhi’s — an NRI who was convicted and jailed in 2007 for almost four years for rallying against then U.S. President George W. Bush. “I went to the U.S. to fight for his release because I wanted to ensure that the interests of Indian citizens are secure,” Mr. Bharti says. He won the case.

He also cites the case of constable Subhash Tomar. The policeman died of a heart attack during the 2012 Nirbhaya protests, but the Delhi Police had implicated eight youths for his murder. “I fought the police and succeeded in getting the murder charges dropped,” he adds.

Mr. Bharti has also represented Mr. Kejriwal in various capacities, including in the case filed by the latter alleging corruption by officials while organising the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

His BJP opponent, incidentally, is also a lawyer by training.

‘People’s person’

Mr. Bharti’s wife Lipika, a Bengali, has been tasked with the job of campaigning for him in the Bengali-speaking areas of New Delhi constituency. The MLA himself speaks fluent Hindi, English, Punjabi, and Bagri, as well as a little Bengali.

While downtime is rare, the leader adds that he cannot start his day without meditation, which is a trait he picked up from his father.

“I am a people’s person, so I want to give it my all and fight for them. That is why it is important for me to work as hard as I can to win this election. We need somebody who will fight for Delhi, and I have a history of doing just that,” Mr. Bharti says.

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