'Sonia Gandhi has created robots here'
'She has kept them poor so that they spend all their time keeping body and soul together and when the time comes to vote, they blindly vote for her. Had they prospered, they would have had the time to think. She wants the mindset to remain the same. It's the perfect vote bank, but that will change,' Ajay Aggarwal, the BJP's candidate in Rae Bareli, tells Swarupa Dutt/Rediff.com
In Rae Bareli, it is said, that if the Congress party puts up a cardboard cutout as a candidate, it will win. And it is not without reason.
Sonia Gandhi, the United Progressive Alliance chairperson and Congress party president, has retained her seat here for three consecutive terms and talk across the district is that despite a lackadaisical development, poor roads, crumbling factories, its people will stay with Sonia.
The few anti-Congress, pro-Bharatiya Janata Party supporters say they will not waste their vote on any other candidate, but hope that Sonia wins by a lesser margin than the 300,000 win in 2009 over R S Kushwaha of the Bahujan Samaj Party.
"She must understand that this is not her fiefdom, we want her to win, but she needs to do some thinking," says Shyam Shukla who waited for nearly three hours to see her at the rally at Rae Bareli on Saturday.
That is what the BJP's Ajay Aggarwal is up against. A Supreme Court lawyer who pursued the Bofors scam, the Taj Corridor case against BSP supremo and former chief minister Mayawati and the fake stamp paper case involving Abdul Karim Telgi, Agrawal is undeterred by the fact that he will be battling for a seat the Nehru-Gandhi family has lost just thrice since 1951.
What are your chances of winning?
Chances? Of course, I will win. If you go to villages, there is a lot of support for Narendra Modi. There is a clear mandate for the BJP in Rae Bareli. And that is because of Mrs Sonia Gandhi. Because she has not done anything for this constituency.
It comes in the list of the most backward constituencies. The malnutrition level here is more than 70 per cent, it's more than Jharkhand and Odisha. There is no potable water, water is mixed with fluoride. She keeps throwing names like the ITI (The Indian Telephones Industries), but they are just hollow shells. They are taking their last breath and there is no revival package.
If she has done nothing for Rae Bareli, why have the people voted her for the last two terms?
She has created robots here. The lack of development here is intentional. She wants people to remain uneducated, unaware, that there is an alternative to the Congress.
She has kept them poor so that they spend all their time keeping body and soul together and when the time comes to vote, they blindly vote for her.
Had they prospered, they would have had the time to think. She wants the mindset to remain the same. It's the perfect vote bank, but that will change.
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Image: Sonia Gandhi waves to supporters as she arrives in Rae Bareli to file her nomination papers.
Photographs: Pawan Kumar/Reuters
'Progressive Muslims are in favour of Modi. And I don't even mean educated people, but small traders, fruit vendors...'
So, you are saying, the Narendra Modi 'wave' will wash over Rae Bareli too.
You are asking if Sonia Gandhi will win? She has already lost. If you go to villages in Rae Bareli, people are saying they don't want her, she is supposed to have done work, I'm saying show me the work.
All I can see are kachcha (unpaved) roads, kachcha (thatch) houses, that is not development. The promise she made five years ago that Rae Bareli would have an AIIMS (the All India Institute of Medical Sciences) remains a promise.
Will people vote for you or Narendra Modi?
Narendra Modi. But I have also been here for the last seven months, and people know me. I have developed personal relationships.
Yes, they want Mr Modi as prime minister, but they also feel that Mr Ajay Agarwal is known to us.
Narendra Modi is probably the first prime ministerial candidate who stirs real fear among minorities.
Look, I went to Gujarat three years ago. Progressive Muslims are in favour of Modi. And I don't even mean educated people, but small traders, fruit vendors... they say they are happy with him as the CM. They say their incomes have grown in direct proportion to the state's development and they are not concerned with anything else.
Maybe, but outside Gujarat there is a real fear at the prospect of 'Prime Minister Narendra Modi'.
It's the Congress who is creating the fear, it's just electoral hype.
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Image: Narendra Modi addresses a campaign rally in Bhardoli.
Photographs: Amit Dave/Reuters
'If you work day in day out, and not at Sonia Gandhi's speed, everything is possible'
If you get elected, what's first on the agenda?
For a start, we will complete all the incomplete projects begun by Sonia Gandhi. There are too many to tell you right now, but I can assure my people in Rae Bareli that it will get the AIIMS it was promised, in just two years.
Sab kuch do saal mein theek kar denge (We will get the place on its feet in two years). And that includes the dirt roads.
Can you replicate Narendra Modi's Gujarat model here?
It's certainly possible here and like I said, it will be done in two years.
If you work day in day out, and not at Sonia Gandhi's speed, everything is possible.
If Modi becomes the PM, we will deliver.
You are saying if Modi becomes PM, so it's not certain?
No, no, it's a definite win. In fact, the BJP will get a clear mandate.
How many seats?
At least 300. Only BJP, OK.
You were with the Samajwadi Party till a few months ago. Opportunistic, isn't it?
When I joined the SP, the Mayawati government was looting the state, just to ensure the BSP does not come to power again, I joined the SP.
But when the SP came to power, they were no different -- looting, communal riots in Muzaffarnagar; UP lies in ruins. I was fed up.
I spoke to Rajnath Singh (the BJP president) and joined the party in October 2013. I offered to contest from Rae Bareli.
I'm tired of people saying I'm a sacrificial goat.
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Image: Ajay Aggarwal at his home in Rae Bareli, which doubles up as his office.
Photographs: Swarupa Dutt/Rediff.com
'There's no place for Kejriwal in Varanasi'
As the interview nears its end, an aide gives Aggarwal a BJP badge. Pinning it on his chest, Aggarwal asks him if the banners and flags for the rally have been loaded on the van. "Careful with the badges, they cost Rs 20 each," he says.
Are you comfortable being a politician? How easy was the transition from lawyer to politician?
There is a big difference. In the court, you have to address only the bench. It is for the bench to decide on the case. Depending on how you present your case, they can accept your argument or reject it or keep the verdict in abeyance.
In politics, you appear before the court of people. If you do a bad job, you will get the verdict, in five years, like Sonia Gandhi will very soon.
I find the job very challenging, very difficult, but very creative. Of course, that's provided you are not joining politics to make money.
I enjoy the struggle involved to change the system. Let me tell you, there is more work satisfaction in politics.
With your credentials, you seem a perfect fit for the Aam Aadmi Party.
Yeh AAP people kya hain, there are here for publicity. Arvind Kejriwal sat on a dharna when he was the CM of Delhi in support of his law minister (Somnath Bharti).
Right then, people were dying in night shelters in the bitter Delhi cold, but instead of taking up their problems he wanted to prove a point with the Delhi police. He could have served the people, but he quit on them.
No, no, people have lost faith in him and the AAP. My forecast is they won't win a single seat in the Lok Sabha.
Kejriwal will lose his deposit. There is no place for him in Varanasi.
Image: AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal addresses a road show in Varanasi.
Photographs: Courtesy: AAP's Twitter page