We want development, BJP wants division Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal-
After a strong focus on education, health care and power in its first full term, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) will give top priority to cleanliness, water and pollution if voted back to power in Delhi, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal told HT in an interview, in which he also expressed dismay over what he termed a campaign of “abuse and violence” being run by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Kejriwal said that while he wanted the discourse before the elections to be about governance and civic issues, the BJP was only talking about “Hindu vs Muslim” and the ongoing anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act stir at Shaheen Bagh, which, he said, was intentionally being allowed to continue by the Union government.
“I say let’s make more schools; they say Shaheen Bagh. I say, let’s build more hospitals; they say Shaheen Bagh. I talk about uninterrupted power supply; they say Shaheen Bagh. Is there no other issue in Delhi?” Kejriwal said.
“Why are they not ending the protest — can a home minister as powerful as Amit Shah not get a road vacated?”Kejriwal added. “They are trying to polarise the voters. It will become clear on February 11 whether or not this had worked.”
When asked why he had not gone to the protest site, Kejriwal said he did not want to put more attention on what is the BJP’s only campaign plank. “The protest is causing problems to several people… The biggest gainers from the Shaheen Bagh protest are the BJP. Why should I support something which helps the BJP? Why should I keep the Shaheen Bagh issue alive for BJP to take benefit of it? There’s no question of that.”
Though the AAP government was embroiled in a series of confrontations with both the Centre (over schemes) and the police (over cases filed against MLAs), Kejriwal said that, if voted back to power, his next term would be smoother.
“They (Centre) have understood that our 2015 win was not a one-off thing, and we are here to stay in Delhi politics. In our second term, I expect to find ourselves in a position where we can sit with the Centre and get more work done with their cooperation towards Delhi’s betterment. I believe that it can happen,” he said.
Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal-
The chief minister, who was a civil servant, social worker and then an activist before he entered politics, said that, overall, he was both satisfied and surprised by what his government was able to achieve over the last five years.
“I was an activist and often restless about things related to the condition of schools, hospitals, ration distribution, etc. We often thought it must be a really complicated job — no party could do much in 70 years. Now, after stepping into governance, we have realised it’s not a rocket science. They (other parties) did not have the intent or the will to change things.”
Next on the agenda, he said, is a single-window system for health care services, a specific fund to the civic bodies for cleanliness, a drive to clean the Yamuna, and scaling up the fight against air pollution with real-time data.
BJP’s Delhi unit president, Manoj Tiwari, dismissed Kejriwal’s comments. “This election will be based on promises and performances in the last five years. People in Delhi understand that clearly and they know that Arvind Kejriwal should be removed from chief minister’s position because he could not open one new school in the city, one new college, one new hospital — they could not provide clean water in any locality and the condition of Delhi roads are pathetic,” he said.
Praveen Rai, political analyst
Praveen Rai, political analyst with the Centre for Study of Developing Societies, said: “For a long time, the contest in Delhi looked like a one-sided affair. With the BJP taking up the Shaheen Bagh protest in their poll campaign, the ground realities have changed to a large extent. Attempts to polarise the voters are visible.”
“Also, for a long time, the AAP managed to sideline the issue and focus on their development agenda. But, after a stage, they too took some conflicting stands. For instance, Arvind Kejriwal stayed away from the protests but he said things like he could clear the site if he had the police under him. But it is difficult to assess at this point what impact it can have on the February 8 polls,” said Rai.
Delhi Assembly Election-
The AAP won 67 out of 70 seats in the 2015 elections. Kejriwal said he was confident the party would return to power, but declined to reveal how many seats he expected to win.