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Interview With Somnath Bharti

Interview With Somnath Bharti

Honesty and fair governance reaped benefit to AAP: Somnath Bharti

Delhi election results have shown that people voted for Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) primarily for focusing on refurbishing public schools, providing free bus rides for women and electric and healthcare subsidies. These results have also proved that BJP's divisive policies will harm India’s secular image on the world stage in the long run.

The opposition parties including Congress, which drew blank, are delighted that AAP defeated BJP and almost held its vote share intact. Though the BJP managed to increase its seat share, the AAP won 62 of the 70 seats in Delhi polls this time, as compared to 67 seats last time. The AAP’s stupendous victory came nearly eight months after it suffered a severe drubbing in the Lok Sabha polls in which the party drew a blank while the BJP won all the seven seats.

Anju Grover for Indian Currents spoke to AAP MLA Somnath Bharti to know the meaning of AAP victory, its impact on national politics and priorities of Kejriwal government in the new avatar. Three-time MLA from Malviya Nagar constituency, Somnath Bharti admitted that Delhi poll results are a referendum on Kejriwal government's work. According to him, Delhi poll results will change national political narrative. Delhi election is likely to trigger a national wave of issue-based politics instead of identity-based politics.

IC: What are your takeaways from Delhi elections in which your party returned to power after a tough battle?

Somnath Bharti: The truth has prevailed and AAP retained power.  Delhi election was like a Maharabharat where Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his cabinet ministers, 11 BJP Chief Ministers and many star campaigners were on one side and Arvind Kejriwal and his small team were on the other side. But people, like Lord Krishna, sided with AAP. Between a performer and a non-performer, people chose the performer. It was a fight between development and hate speeches.

Delhi elections have exhibited that people give their mandate to performing Chief Minister and performing MLAs.   

IC: What happened in Lok Sabha elections that BJP won all seven parliamentary seats and managed to win only eight seats in assembly elections? AAP did not win any parliamentary seat and won 62 seats assembly polls in just concluded polls.

AAP was not an alternative to BJP in 2019 Lok Sabha elections. In Delhi polls, BJP or the Congress was not an alternative to AAP. Delhi will define national politics. In states, people will demand that the governments perform. Madhya Pradesh has announced that they will copy Delhi's model of development. West Bengal has already announced that electricity would be given free if it is less 100 units and Maharashtra is considering to provide electricity free of cost if the consumption is less than 75 units.

IC:  AAP won 2020 on the strength of Arvind Kejriwal’s personality and welfare schemes. Your comments.

The corporate loot which used to be the mantra of governance was not followed by the AAP government. The BJP has criticised AAP for announcing freebies which are not freebies at all. The BJP announced thousands of crores of tax waivers for corporates and bad debts to corporates found nothing wrong with it. It is interesting that BJP and Congress voters have voted for AAP. People voted for AAP cutting across party lines, caste or creed and financial and political background.

IC: Explain the mantra of freebies?

Honesty and fair governance reaped benefit to AAP because the money earned was spent on infrastructure development. We have tried to bridge the disparity in education and health sector by providing quality education in government schools and improving health care services in government hospitals. That's why educational reforms were adopted to bring government schools at par with private schools. The fact is that world-class Education and Health services can take India to an international level and that's what the AAP government implemented.  These efforts will continue in the next term as well.  Freebies are nothing but empowering the masses because the money that people saved on electricity, water and education, can be used for buying products. 

IC: You lost eight seats out of 70 seats. This time AAP is down by five seats. Your comment.

The margin of AAP with BJP candidate in eight seats was not so huge. In these seats, AAP candidates lost by few hundred votes or 2000 to3000 votes. The presence of Congress or independent candidate must have influenced a section of voters. 

IC: Is it not true that Congress helped AAP to keep BJP out of power in Delhi?

It is an afterthought. Congress has lost its base in Delhi now. Supporters of both Congress and BJP have voted for AAP because the Kejriwal government adopted policies for people of Delhi and not for a particular section or community and caste. The BJP fought Lok Sabha elections in 2014 on development agenda but did not implement it. Instead, they fought LS elections on communal issues. The AAP government fought Delhi assembly elections in 2015 on development issues and delivered.

IC: Do you think BJP has paid the price for using hate speeches and using filthy language in Delhi elections. Union Home Minister Amit Shah has conceded that provocative remarks by his party leaders may have hurt the party.

These leaders had crossed the limit and paid the price in these elections as people have rejected them.

IC: Why did Mr Kejriwal avoid going to Shaheen Bagh during the campaigning and what is preventing him from going there and speaking to protestors?

Union Home Minister Amit Shah has already said that the government was willing to talk to them on Citizenship Amendment Act. We are against the CAA and NRC.

IC: What will be priorities of the new AAP government in Delhi?

Every promise made in our manifesto will be fulfilled. Pollution will be on top of the priority list. Mr Kejriwal has said that he wants to make Delhi the best city in the world and I have taken a vow to make Malviya Nagar the best constituency of Delhi.

IC: Am I talking to a next minister in Kejriwal government?

In AAP working as a Minister is much more difficult than working as an MLA in the constituency. Whatever AAP leader Mr Kejriwal says, I will do that.

(Published on 17th February 2020, Volume XXXII, Issue 08)