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The Rediff Election Interview/Sajjan Kumar

May 06, 2004

Criss-crossing the Outer Delhi parliamentary constituency asking people to vote for their mentor, Congress candidate Sajjan Kumar's supporters are upbeat that the Jat leader will emerge victorious this time.

There is a new spring in their stride and robust timbre in their voice after the man who was once accused of being one of the masterminds of the 1984 pogrom against the Sikhs in Delhi was rehabilitated in the party.

In an exclusive interview with Chief Correspondent Tara Shankar Sahay, Kumar talks about the contest, why he is confident of winning, and what he intends to do on re-entering Parliament for the first time since 1991.

There is still some apprehension that your alleged role in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots could prove to be a stumbling block.

On the contrary, there is a new enthusiasm among my supporters that I am unstoppable from this constituency because the people are disgusted with the sorry performance of the Vajpayee government. You can go to any corner of 'bahari Dilli' [Outer Delhi] and find for yourself the groundswell of support coming my way.

Besides, I have been acquitted in all three cases (registered against him in connection with the 1984 riots), so the matter ends there. My political antagonists have tried to capitalise on this issue, but to no avail.

Some Sikhs are saying there is a call within the community not to vote for you.

This is nothing new. The same was said in the 1991 election and I won. I don't think what you say is true because people in this constituency want change and they know that I am capable of providing what they want.

ALSO READ: 'I don't think the Sikhs will ever forget 1984'

And what is that?

In a nutshell, development. The sitting MP from this seat [the Bharatiya Janata Party's Sahib Singh Verma] has only been talking about it, which is why the voters want a change. We have the chronic problems of power (shortage), inadequate roads, water, housing, and, above all, unemployment. The National Democratic Alliance government of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee led by the BJP has spread disillusionment all around, particularly among our youth. Visit this constituency and talk to the people and you will find that there is no feel-good factor, which the BJP has been claiming.

What will you do if you win and represent this constituency in the Lok Sabha once again?

I will focus on the basic problems, which I mentioned, in this constituency, which have remained unattended all these years. Action has not followed announcements, which were made merely to get votes. The voice of the people of Outer Delhi will be heard in the Lok Sabha and as their representative I will ensure that appropriate action is taken to meet their demands.

What makes you optimistic that the people will vote for you?

Our leadership delivers the goods, unlike that of the BJP. Take the case of Delhi. We romped home in the assembly election because of the good and constructive work of our Delhi government, which was basically team work.

Add to that the disenchantment of the people with the BJP, especially since he [Verma] has failed to meet the aspirations of the voters.

Are you expecting many votes from your Jat community to which the BJP candidate also belongs?

I am confident of getting votes from Jats, Yadavs, Muslims, Dalits, and others because I am not only a veteran Congress member who is on good terms with the people and all sections of the constituency, but I believe in representing all of them on an equal footing.

Don't you think the modern face of Delhi with its metro rail system and numerous flyovers presents a picture incongruous with the peripheral and unplanned settlements in your constituency?

It is not unique or limited to this constituency. It is a problem being faced everywhere. But having said that, it will be my endeavour to ensure that we have a systematic and planned developmental effort, which benefits all people in this constituency.

What is your opinion of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee?

He has had his innings and he should retire gracefully now. Anyway, it doesn't seem that his government is returning to power. I think a Congress-led opposition government will replace the NDA government.

What do you think about talk in political circles that a Third Front government can assume power by dislodging the NDA?

I think the prospects of the Congress party are on the upswing and it will head the government at the Centre.

What do you think of Rahul and Priyanka?

They have given ample indications that despite their young age and inexperience, they can take on the tallest ruling alliance politician at the central level, such is their charisma and magnetic personality.

If you were to give a message to the people, what would it be?

Vote the Congress to power for stability, economic growth, prosperity, and all-round harmony of the people.

Image: Rahil Shaikh

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India Votes 2004 | The Rediff Interviews

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