Monday, February 8, 2016

Ajaz Ashraf: The Arvind Kejriwal interview: Modi plays the politics of vengeance, not the politics of development

This week, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal completes one year in office. Looking back, he tells on how the Centre has been raising one obstacle after another in the smooth functioning of the Delhi government, the intimidation of its officers, the schemes it has introduced, and about his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who remained silent right through their conversation.

Did you expect so many obstacles in running the Delhi government even after having won 67 out of 70 seats in Delhi? In what ways have these obstacles adversely affected governance in Delhi?
The journey after winning the elections has been far more difficult than the journey before it. It appears winning was much easier than thereafter. I had thought that after our victory we would be able to focus completely on governance. That was the reason I did not keep any portfolio. I wanted to be the wall between the Modi government and the Delhi government and its ministers, in the hope they won’t be affected. However, they [the Central government and the Bharatiya Janata Party] are trying to put obstacles in governance on a daily basis. Despite that, our fiercest critics would admit that we have done a lot of work....

What has been the stiffest obstacle your government has encountered?
Their [the Central government] taking away our anti-corruption branch. That was our biggest tool to tackle corruption. During our 49 days of governance (between December 2013 and February 2014), corruption had come down to nearly zero in Delhi. In the first three months of our current tenure, corruption came down dramatically. However, on June 8, 2015, the Modi government forcibly took over our anti-corruption branch, depriving us of control over it. Plus on a day-to-day basis, whatever order we pass, it is declared null and void.

Basically, the Lt Governor Najeeb Jung is doing it?

You said last year that Lt Governor didn’t at times take calls from you and Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia. Has his behaviour changed since then?
Whether or not he takes calls, it doesn’t really make much of a difference (laughs).

Has his attitude changed? Has he become a little cooperative?
No, he remains the same. Actually, he is a pawn. The real direction comes from the Prime Minister’s Office, particularly Nripendra Misra [Principal Secretary in the PMO]. I have met several Union Cabinet ministers and just about everyone says that they simply don’t have any control and that everything is being done by the PMO.

Are you saying Nripendra Misra is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s hatchet man?
In our case, everyone says Nripendra Misra is controlling Delhi, that is, he gives directions to the Lt Governor.

What problem does Modi have with you?
People tell me that from the time the Aam Aadmi Party won 67 seats, his blood has been boiling about us. Whenever anyone takes my name before him, Modi gets angry. He is wreaking vengeance on the people of Delhi for giving us so many seats. It is his way of telling them, “Why did you elect AAP? Ab main tumhari aisi-taisi karoonga." [I will hurt you now.]

Or is it that Modi is telling the people that had they elected the BJP, they would have benefitted?
It is plain vengeance. What benefit? You can see what is happening in the MCD [Municipal Corporation of Delhi]….

Do you think there is a conspiracy behind the MCD workers’ strike in protest against non-payment of salaries to them?
Certainly. In fact, some of the union leaders told us that the BJP is just not letting the strike to end. You must have seen that even their mayor was on strike. Can you imagine a situation in which there is a strike and I join them? The mayor’s work is to end strike. There is so much of garbage strewn around. The mayor’s responsibility is to have the garbage removed, to ensure the strike ends. It is not for him to go sit with the strikers. Since the BJP triggered the strike, it doesn’t want to end it.

Was there an attempt to create instability? After all, there was a police report warning that there could be a law and order problem.
As you know, students organised a peaceful protest in front of the RSS office [in Delhi last month]. It wasn’t as if it had many participants. But the Delhi Police beat them severely. Police Commissioner BS Bassi issued a statement that protest in Delhi won’t be allowed without the permission of the police.

Does this mean that the strewing of garbage in Delhi and the protest by MCD workers have the permission of Delhi Police? This is a natural corollary [to Bassi’s statement]. Why did the police allow the MCD workers to strew garbage around in the city? Why did the police allow the strikers to block traffic? Is it the job of police to have garbage strewn around? Or is it of removing it?

Then the Delhi Police writes to us saying that we need to take steps or there might be a law and order problem. Law and order is their responsibility, not ours. Our responsibility is to provide electricity. If tomorrow there is no electricity in Delhi, then we can be asked to ensure its regular supply. The strike was by MCD; law and order is the responsibility of Delhi Police. Why should we get caught between?....

You say you are 200% sure of AAP winning Punjab. But traditional parties have immense cadre strength, and also boast of muscle and financial power. Can AAP counter that?
I will tell you a very interesting thing. From the day before [February 6], AAP began its Parivar Jodo [Join the Family] campaign. In this campaign, our volunteers move from house to house and ask people to join AAP. If they agree, our volunteers seek their permission to put a big board or a large sticker on their houses declaring that their inmates have joined the party. In one village, there were 350 families. Out of them, 300 agreed for the stickers or boards to be put up. This means people are openly coming out in support of AAP. It shows their fear is diminishing, coming to an end.... 
read more: