Here’s the full transcript of the interview where the former AAP leader gives a detailed analyses of the AAP’s first year in power.
How would you rate the AAP’s performance in the last one year?
Well, when I was a teacher, the correct answer to everything began with depends. Depends what you’re comparing it with. If you are comparing it with the previous congress regime, my sense is that this government’s first year has been better than Congress. If you’re comparing it with what it promised in it’s manifesto, then you wouldn’t feel very happy about it. If you compare it to the expectations and hopes people had of transforming the way politics is run in this country, then I would say it’s terrible. So it all depends.
What are the things that this government has positively achieved?
Look, every new government does a few things well and it’s silly not to accept it. It’s their first year and benefit of doubt should be given to them. I thought their promise on electricity has been largely implemented, electricity bills have come down. In some parts of the city, water supply has improved. In terms of nursery admissions, it’s more transparent now than before. Education budget has gone up and I personally think odd-even was a good idea. I really find it strange that people who happen to be in other parties cannot see even one thing that the other party has done which is good.
What are the aspects on which this government has completely failed?
I could pick points from the 70 point manifesto and say this has not been done and that has not been done, but the simple point is look, no government can do all the things it promised in the first year itself. I would simply mention things that they promised they would do in the first year or things that should’ve been done in the first year itself.
First is the regularisation of unauthorised colonies. Their manifesto clearly said within the first year, it’ll be done. It hasn’t been done. There should be some explanation as to why it didn’t happen.
Second is the Swaraj Bill. Now, what is Swaraj Bill? Basically, it is a radical idea that says ministers and MLAs will not take big decisions. Instead, we’ll allow Mohalla Sabhas to those decisions. The bill was ready in 2014 at the end of the 49 day government. It’s not been introduced yet. Why? Now we hear that this government is junking the very idea of this bill.
Third and I must confess the most disappointing thing for me, what this government has done with the Lokpal. Now, Lokpal is why this party came into existence, why we all came into politics. Lokepal is the reason why Arvind Kejriwal had left the government, had to resign. The least you would expect when he came back to power, is that he would pick up that bill and say, now that I have a majority, I am presenting it. Instead, what does he do? He junks that bill completely and brings something that even the Congress and BJP would be embarrassed about. And what is worse, he actually wants to pass it on as the old bill.
In spite of these shortcomings, do you think this government is at least moving in the right direction?
I thought right in the beginning when this government came to power, they did some correct things like fulfilling the promises on electricity, water supply, going for CAG audit of electricity companies. I’m not so sure if the same spirit has been kept on. My fear is, that even one year in power has made this government wiser. You know why I fear wisdom of this kind? Because once you get used to establishment, you begin to feel comfortable and you do exactly those things which others used to do. For example, in 2013 every contestant was made to sign an affidavit that I shall accept only half the salary that was due to me. Now, what did they do after coming to power? Raise it by four times.
With passage of time, this government is beginning to look more and more like previous governments. It may be shade better than previous governments but I see it moving away from the very spirit of what they wanted to achieve.
Do you think with the 400% hike in salary, the AAP has become more of a Khaas aadmi party than an Aam Aadmi Party?
I personally feel MLAs and Mps should get middle class salaries. If an MP gets a salary that a college professor gets, there’s nothing wrong with it. However, you cannot say that you’ll reduce it before coming to power and hike it later on. You cannot say that you’ll consult the people before taking such decisions and then not do so. The least this govt should’ve done is go to people and say look we didn’t realise it before, but now that we are in power, we realise that these are the problems, can you please approve it? When you can organise a Mohalla Sabha for Odd-Even, why not for pay hikes?
Are you calling the AAP hypocrites then?
I don’t believe in name calling. All I’ve been saying is, from an Aam Aadmi Party, it has become an Aam party or like any other party, where the leader has no compunctions in going and hugging Lalu Prasad Yadav. Just imagine, if you were standing in Ramlila Maidan in 2012 and if someone told you that this man standing there giving speeches against corruption will one day hug Lalu Prasad Yadav, you would say ‘Impossible’! Today, you have Lalu Prasad Yadav, tomorrow you will have Sharad Pawar, so where is the difference?
But Kejriwal defended himself saying that it was Lalu who hugged him forcibly.
(laughs derisively) Do you buy this? I’m sure Lalu hugged him forcibly, Lalu is too clever a man to let go of this opportunity. The question is, what was Arvind doing sharing a stage with Lalu Prasad Yadav? To share a stage with someone and then to say that he forcibly hugged you, let’s not be childish about these things. The point is not hugging, it’s not the physical contact, it’s the idea of being okay with seeing yourself as a part of this grand alliance. It’s not like you accidently meet someone in a railway station and shake hands. Arvind I’m sure is smart enough to see what he was doing and where was going. So, that hug simply seems to have captured what was happening on that stage.
Kejriwal has had frequent run ins with centre, the LG and the Police. It has also gotten ugly several times with abuses hurled at each other. Do you think that Kejriwal could’ve handled it differently or was his approach justified?
First of all, let’s say could the centre have done it differently? The Lt. Governor has done many things that are completely unjustified and unacceptable. I personally think that the Lt. Governor has allowed his office to be used as an instrument of the ruling party at the centre. So, the BJP is clearly interfering with the functioning of Delhi government in ways which is undesirable. Some of the things that they have done is simply with the view to obstructing what a popular government does.
The question is, how should AAP react to this? Is AAP also inviting a bit of this trouble? The answer unfortunately is yes. BJP is fishing into troubled waters and AAP loves it. So, both have in a sense joined hands to play this kho-kho with the people of delhi. When you come to power, you know that Delhi does not have the same status of a Rajasthan. It’s a Union Territory. You know you are entering into a are where there will have to be a bit of give and take. Twice Delhi has had chief ministers that were not supported by the centre, but you didn’t see so much of theatre and drama those days.
Now, the way to deal with this situation is to handle these things with a bit of maturity, some depth, some deftness. You make your point and sometimes you have to make it very sharply. But you can’t do it everyday. You can’t lay the blame of everything on the central government. If you think that your superior government is misbehaving with you, what are you doing with MCD then? In a sense, the Delhi government is doing exactly to MCD, what Modi is doing to them. Is this the spirit of federalism? I really think there is enormous immaturity and not just immaturity, but also playing to the gallery, playing a martyr and they seem to have made a practice out of it. That’s the problematic part. The whole name of the game is to draw media attention, to be in news all the time. Now, that’s just not sensible politics.
You have a Prime Minister who behaves as if he is desperately trying to be like a UN General Secretary who stays out all the time and you have a Chief Minister who is desperately trying to be Prime Minister of this country. It doesn’t look nice.
It’ll better if the PM were to stay in this country and solve all the problems here and the CM to actually focus on his state and not enter into this blamegame.
Do you forsee both parties making peace in the near future?
Unfortunately, I don’t see a reconcilliation. It’s not a matter of personalities. I see a deep political vested interests from both sides. BJP from the centre and AAP from the state where they want to keep this confrontation going. Both of them love it for different reasons. AAP loves it because it keeps them in the news and BJP wants it, because it is a way for them to checkmate their political opposition.
Then, do you think giving Delhi full statehood is the only way forward?
Ideally, we should move towards an arrangement where Delhi is a full state. The demand is absolutely justified. But I don’t see it happening at all in the next 5 years. I doubt it’ll happen even after 5 years. The problem is, the confrontations of the last one year has not taken us towards that goal, it has in fact, taken us two steps back. And I tell you, no government in Delhi, not even the Aam Aadmi Party at the national level is now going to yeild to this demand. It has become more difficult than ever before.
If there was one thing that you would want Kejriwal to do, what would it be?
I think Arvind Kejriwal should read a book. It’s called ‘Swaraj’. It was written by Arvind Kejriwal The book simply says how this country should be governed and it says these people sitting in positions of power have amassed to themselves too much decision making and the only way of governing this country is radically decentralising by taking power away from such people and giving power back to mohalla sabha, panchayat and so on. That I thought was a wonderful idea which I think he may have forgotten it. He needs to read that book again.
Do you think it’s possible for AAP to be the party that it was a year ago vis-a-vis it’s ideals and principles?
I really and sincerely hope it does because it’s not just about one party or Delhi. AAP was an experiment on which millions of people had pinned their hope. Lakhs of people had come out with candles in their hands for the first time in their lives. Thousands of people, mostly youth had given up their careers to do something very big, to change this country and nothing less. From there to where they are today when allegations of corruption against an MLA or a minister are not shocking anymore. It’s like listening to corruption against a minister in Chhattisgarh or Uttar Pradesh. It’s such a pity, a tragedy because this country had an opportunity like this after such a long time and within two or years, we’ve brought it down to business as usual, corruption as usual. I really hope it goes back to what it was, because if this experiment of alternative politics fails, then people will not trust one more experiment.
For the shorter version of this interview, Click Here.