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'If the Modi magic is working, why does BJP need Kiran Bedi?'

By Upasna Pandey
January 19, 2015 13:47 IST
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The Bharatiya Janata Party is merely replicating our agenda, which shows the bankruptcy of ideas, credibility and leadership in the party, Aam Aadmi Party leader Ashutosh tells's Upasna Pandey.   

Aam Aadmi Party leaders Manish Sisodia and Ashutosh during a press conference in New Delhi. Photograph: PTI Photo

The Aam Aadmi Party wants to be seen as an ‘honest party’… Do you think the Bharatiya Janata Party has succeeded in grabbing AAP’s platform by getting Dr Kiran Bedi in the Delhi election team? Do you see this being strengthened with the entry of Shazia Ilmi into the BJP fold?

Firstly, I want to extend my best wishes to Shazia for her decision. We have been friends and hope we stay that way. She is free to join any political party she wishes. She left AAP a long while ago and Kiran Bedi had never been part of the AAP. Yes, she and (Arvind) Kejriwal were part of the anti-corruption movement led by Anna Hazare, and she vowed not to enter politics, but now she has changed her stand.

We want to understand what has changed so dramatically that Dr Bedi, who was extremely critical of the BJP, has decided to join the party and claims the party is anti-corruption.

The BJP launched its election campaign on the ‘Modi magic’ plank, so, what was the need to introduce Dr Bedi? It all started with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rally, which was expected to draw at least one lakh people, but only around 20,000 turned up. So that’s what got the BJP to consider if ‘Modi magic’ was beginning to lose its sheen.

The BJP has brought in an outsider as they do not have a leader to match Kejriwal’s stature. There is a serious leadership crisis in the BJP and they needed someone from outside to galvanise its party cadres.    

By inducting former AAP leaders they are borrowing the semblance of honesty. But the BJP cannot be seen as an honest party, it has no history of honesty in its conduct or funding or being open to RTI.

With Dr Kiran Bedi joining BJP and Ajay Maken focusing on Congress’s work during its 15 years in the Delhi government, what is the edge that Arvind Kejriwal has?

Kejriwal is known for his commitment and the voters have seen our performance in the 49 days we were in government. Kejriwal continues to stand by his anti-corruption campaign. On the other hand, Congress has completely lost the plot in Delhi, so this election is going to be between the AAP and BJP. I will be surprised if Congress wins any seats at all.

AAP has made allegations against BJP President Satish Upadhyay, how relevant is this issue for Delhi voters?

Upadhyay was not a significant person till he was elevated to the Delhi BJP president’s position. By exposing him, AAP has demonstrated that the party is committed to fighting corruption at all levels. First, the Delhi BJP vice president was caught trying to bribe an AAP MLA, now we have this case against the Delhi BJP president. It is an important issue because of the position Upadhyay holds.

Delhi's former chief minister and Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal greets his supporters. Photograph: Adnan Abidi/Reuters.

Has the middle class vote bank shifted away from AAP?

It would be incorrect to say the entire middle class is still with AAP. I believe we have a more robust and stronger voter base, but some part of the middle class has been disenchanted with the AAP. In the last six months, we have gone back to the voters, argued and shared our rationale and our position has improved, which explains our confidence.

Opinion polls show us to be in a better position, one indicator is that on the day of the Modi rally in Delhi, we got one of the highest public funding, and when Dr Bedi joined the BJP, we again got Rs 62 lakh in funds.

The BJP is picking all our strategies; we went to the public to plan our manifesto and now BJP has also gone to the public. We do door-to-door campaigns and now the BJP is also doing it. But the voter knows the difference between asli aur nakli (real and fake).

Do you think AAP will have to reiterate its agenda of honesty to the voter?

It is for the BJP to explain why they need Kiran Bedi, who has criticised the party previously.

Do you think the women voters will be drawn to the BJP for getting eminent women from different fields to join the party?

I don’t think that is the case. Women don’t necessarily vote for women. I believe women would vote for candidates who have strong character…voting is not based on gender alone.

Delhi BJP President Satish Upadhyay looks on as newly joined BJP leaders Kiran Bedi and Shazia Ilmi greet each other during a felicitation function at the BJP office. Photograph: Vijay Verma/PTI

Do you think BJP is gaining an edge in women representation in comparison to AAP?

I think AAP could have definitely more women candidates for the elections but I don’t see this as a factor working in favour of the BJP.

Do you think the agenda of corruption is on the back burner or diluted by BJP?

AAP has been talking about the agenda of making Delhi a world-class city, bringing down power tariffs, anti-corruption, better law and order, and many other issues, for over three months now in our campaigns. The BJP has just picked up our agenda and is trying to use it. Kiran Bedi even talked about the same things in her press conference. It shows the bankruptcy of ideas, credibility and leadership in the BJP.

How many seats do you expect your party to win in the February 7 elections?

AAP’s internal survey shows that we are headed for a majority in the elections. The voters can see that BJP is willing to compromise on its ideology, and its bankruptcy of ideas and vision.

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Upasna Pandey in New Delhi