The Bharatiya Janata Party can hold elections any time in Delhi but it is afraid to do so, says Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal
How do you react to the reports and allegations of the BJP trying to win over AAP MLAs and leaders to form a government in Delhi?
I fail to understand that after a massive ‘Modi wave’ and the thumping victory in the Lok Sabha elections, why is the BJP running away from facing assembly elections in Delhi? Are they afraid of a defeat? They know what would be the results and thus they are trying all sorts of methods to form a government in Delhi. They can stoop to any level to get power.
During your oath taking ceremony at Ramleela Maidan, you praised Dr Harsh Vardhan. Have your views changed since he transferred Sanjeev Chaturvedi, the AIIMS anti-corruption official?
The action taken by the Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan in the Sanjeev Chaturvedi episode is shocking. It was something which was not expected from him. How can one justify penalising an officer of such an impeccable track record? During his tenure with AIIMS, Sanjeev unearthed several irregularities and acted on them. Such an honest officer, who was posted for four years, was removed unceremoniously under the pressure of BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj and JP Nadda.
You held a sort of “comeback rally” at Jantar Mantar on 3 August. What did you think of the response?
The rally at Jantar Mantar was highly successful because it brought out the anger of the aam aadmi of Delhi. People from all walks of life attended the rally in large numbers to demand fresh elections in Delhi. This also shows that people are now fed up of the BJP government’s false promises. Because if BJP wants it can hold elections any time in Delhi. But it is afraid to do so.
Given that Delhi’s public were disappointed with you for leaving the government, how do you plan to win their confidence and motivate them to vote for AAP again?
In the last elections, we had promised Delhi’s voters that we would pass the Lokayukta Bill as soon as we come to power. However, since we have only 27 out of 70 MLAs currently, we were unable to do so. Taking moral responsibility for the same I resigned, thinking that there would be re-elections soon after that. And people would vote us to power because they were highly satisfied with the AAP government. However, BJP feared the same and are delaying elections.
I understand that people were extremely happy during the AAP government, which is why they are disappointed due to our resignation. I apologise for that.
You are known for your unconventional approach to politics. How do you deal with other leaders in your party who have a more conventional approach?
Changes do not come overnight, it takes time. The path that we have taken is unexplored, so there can be many ups and downs. And we are learning from this process as well. But whatever we do, we do it transparently. There can be differences in opinion on certain issues, but as a group we are united. I feel this is healthy.
How far have you achieved your quest for “change”, the ideology you stand by? How do you see the path ahead?
I dream of swaraj or giving power to the aam aadmi of the country. We currently have 27 MLAs in Delhi. All our MLAs are holding mohalla sabhas in their area to decide where his/her funds are to be utilised. In fact, most of our MLAs have already exhausted their Rs 4 crore MLA fund. People in these areas are extremely happy because of this because they can see the work done in front of their eyes, in a transparent way.
Why has AAP decided to skip the elections for Haryana and Maharashtra assemblies? Is it resource crunch or the Lok Sabha results that discouraged you?
A bit of both.
There have been voices of dissent in the party citing lack of internal democracy. How are you countering that?
I don’t think this is true. Even the smallest decision in our party is taken after adequate discussion. For example, I was against fighting on so many seats in Lok Sabha elections. But the larger view was that we should, so I agreed. This means that there is inner democracy.
Senior party leader Shanti Bhusan recently questioned your style of functioning.
I am a human-being, I do make mistakes. I learn from them and improve myself.
How do you plan to extend the base of the party in other states from Delhi after the Lok Sabha debacle?
We have recently launched ‘Mission Vistar’ for creating a party structure in other states. This expansion would be based on many things including our learning from recent Lok Sabha elections and our volunteer feedback. There is a committee in place which is dedicatedly working on it and monitoring the entire process. In fact we have already initiated this process in many states.
Can we know in brief about your economic vision? Free market or state controlled? Why?
Well, it depends on the problem and its best possible solution. We need not stick to a single line of being either free market or state controlled market. If the best possible solution to a particular problem lies in free market we will adopt that or if its lies in state controlled market we will adopt that.
Recently, I met a man in front of your Ghaziabad residence; he wanted you to be the ‘anti-corruption minister’ in the Narendra Modi cabinet. Your reaction to it?
The Modi government is not interested in eradicating corruption at all. The recent removal of AIIMS CVO Sanjeev Chaturvedi is an example of the same. Sanjeev Chaturvedi is a very brave officer who took several corrupt officers to task. Instead of being appreciated for his efforts he was removed.
Looking at the changing political alignments after elections of 2014, one example is Bihar where Lalu Prasad Yadav and Nitish Kumar have come together. Are you open to join hands with likeminded parties to counter the BJP?
No, we will be fighting elections in Delhi on our own strength.
How do you strike a balance between your political commitments and the personal ones? How has your family life changed since joining active politics?
My family and friends have been extremely supportive, and I have deep respect for them. They too have deep trust in me and appreciate and encourage whatever I do. I take out time for them and go out whenever I get time.
You have been at the IIT, in the Indian Revenue Service, been an activist and a chief minister. Which one was the most satisfying and which has been the most challenging?
All the roles had its positives and challenges. In fact all these have been interconnected. Whatever knowledge I gained in IIT helped me as an IRS officer. Whatever I learnt about the existing government system helped me as an activist. My being an anti-corruption activist helped me as a chief minister, as I could better understand people’s expectations. I have enjoyed all these roles thoroughly and have tried to give my 100 per cent.
What do you do to keep your energy levels and confidence high?
I do meditate and practice Vipasanna daily which helps me a lot.