Friday, September 19, 2014

Arvind Kejriwal exclusive: “BJP can stoop to any level for power. People fed up of their false promises”

September 1, 2014

In this wide-ranging, exclusive interview with The Political Indian, the Aam Aadmi Party leader tackles question from the next Delhi government, to AAP’s future across the country, to what he does to keep up his energy levels.

Q. How do you react to the reports and allegations of the BJP trying to win over AAP MLAs and leaders to form a government in Delhi?

A: I fail to understand that after a massive “Modi wave” and the thumping victory in the Lok Sabha elections, why is the BJP running away from facing assembly elections in Delhi? Are they afraid of a defeat? They know what would be the results and thus they are trying all sorts of methods to form a government in Delhi. They can stoop to any level to get power.

Q. During your oath taking ceremony at Ramleela Maidan, you praised Dr Harsh Vardhan. Have your views changed since he transferred Sanjeev Chaturvedi, the AIIMS anti-corruption official ?

A: The action taken by the Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan in the Sanjeev Chaturvedi episode is shocking. It was something which was not expected from him. How can one justify penalizing an officer of such an impeccable track record?During his tenure with AIIMS, Sanjeev unearthed several irregularities and acted on them. Such an honest officer, who was posted for four years, was removed unceremoniously under the pressure of BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj and JP Nadda.

Q. You held a sort of “comeback rally” at Jantar Mantar on 3 August. What did you think of the response?

A: The rally at Jantar Mantar was highly successful because it brought out the anger of the aam aadmi of Delhi. People from all walks of life attended the rally in large numbers to demand fresh elections in Delhi. This also shows that people are now fed up of the BJP government’s false promises. Because if BJP wanted it can hold elections any time in Delhi. But it is afraid to do so.

Q. Given that Delhi’s public were disappointed with you for leaving the government, how do you plan to win their confidence and motivate them to vote for AAP again?

A: In last elections, we had promised Delhi’s voters that we would pass the Lokayukta Bill as soon as we come to power. However, since we have only 27 out of 70 MLAs currently, we were unable to do so. Taking moral responsibility for the same I resigned, thinking that there would be re-elections soon after that. And people would vote us to power because they were highly satisfied with the AAP government. However, BJP feared the same and are delaying elections.
I understand that people were extremely happy during the AAP government, which is why they are disappointed due to our resignation. I apologise for that.

Q. You are known for your unconventional approach to politics. How do you deal with other leaders in your party who have a more conventional approach?

A: Changes do not come overnight, it takes time. The path that we have taken is unexplored, so there can be many ups and downs. And we are learning from this process as well. But whatever we do, we do it transparently. There can be differences in opinion on certain issues, but as a group we are united. I feel this is healthy.

Q. How far have you achieved your quest for “change”, the ideology you stand by? How do you see the path ahead?

A: I dream of Swaraj or giving power to the aam aadmi of the country. We currently have 27 MLAs in Delhi. All our MLAs are holding mohalla sabhas in their area to decide where his/her funds are to be utilized. In fact, most of our MLAs have already exhausted their Rs 4 crore MLA fund. People in these areas are extremely happy because of this because they can see the work done in front of their eyes, in a transparent way.

Q. Why has AAP decided to skip the elections for Haryana and Maharashtra assemblies? Is it resource crunch or the Lok Sabha results that discouraged you?

A: A bit of both.

Q. There have been voices of dissent in the party citing lack of internal democracy. How are you countering that?

A: I don’t think this is true. Even the smallest decision in our party is taken after adequate discussion. For example, I was against fighting on so many seats in Lok Sabha elections. But the larger view was that we should, so I agreed. This means that there is inner democracy.

Q. Senior party leader Shanti Bhusan recently questioned your style of functioning.

A: I am a human-being, I do make mistakes. I learn from them and improve myself.

Q. How do you plan to extend the base of the party in other states from Delhi after the Lok Sabha debacle?

A: We have recently launched Mission Vistar for creating a party structure in other states. This expansion would be based on many things including our learnings from recent Lok Sabha elections and our volunteer feedback. There is a committee in place which is dedicatedly working on it and monitoring the entire process. In fact we have already initiated this process in many states.

Q. Can we know in brief about your economic vision? Free market or state controlled? Why?

A: Well, it depends on the problem and its best possible solution. We need not stick to a single line of being either free market or state controlled market. If the best possible solution to a particular problem lies in free market we will adopt that or if its lies in state controlled market we will adopt that.

Q. Recently, I met a man in in-front of your Ghaziabad residence; he wanted you to be the ‘Anti-corruption Minister’ in the Modi cabinet. Your reaction to it?

A: The Modi government is not interested in eradicating corruption at all. The recent removal of AIIMS CVO Sanjeev Chaturvedi is an example of the same. Sanjeev Chaturvedi is a very brave officer who took several corrupt officers to task. Instead of being appreciated for his efforts he was removed.

Q. Looking at the changing political alignments after elections of 2014, one example is Bihar where Lalu and Nitish have come together. Are you open to join hands with likeminded parties to counter the BJP?

A: No, we will be fighting elections in Delhi on our own strength.

Q. How do you strike a balance between your political commitments and the personal ones? How has your family life changed since joining active politics?

A: My family and friends have been extremely supportive, and I have deep respect for them. They too have deep trust in me and appreciate and encourage whatever I do. I take out time for them and go out whenever I get time.

Q. You have been at the IIT, in the Indian Revenue Service, been an activist and a chief minister. Which one was the most satisfying and which has been the most challenging?

A: All the roles had its own positives and challenges. In fact all these have been inter connected. Whatever knowledge I gained in IIT helped me as an IRS officer. Whatever I learnt about the existing government system helped me as an activist. My being an anti-corruption activist helped me as a chief minister as I could better understand people’s expectations. I have enjoyed all these roles thoroughly and have tried to give my 100% to it.

Q. What do you do to keep your energy levels and confidence high?

A: I do meditate and practice Vipasanna daily which helps me a lot.

This story was first published in and on September 1, 2014

Exclusive: Modi, RSS working for “Hindu Rashtra” in India, says Kashmir separatist leader Geelani

August 18, 2014

Srinagar: Under house arrest in his Rawalpora residence in Srinagar, the Tehreek-e-Hurriyat chairman, Syed Ali Shah Geelani has made it clear that his outfit will boycott the upcoming elections in Jammu and Kashmir. Mr Geelani also claimed Narendra Modi and RSS were working towards creating a “Hindu Rashtra” in India and said Chief Minister Omar Abdullah is a puppet in the hands of the Indian Home Ministry.

Excerpts from an exclusive interview:

Q: Jammu and Kashmir is going for elections soon, is there any possibility of your party joining the electoral process?

A: Never. Under no circumstances can we participate in the upcoming elections. Our
stand on Kashmir is that it is a matter of dispute and therefore our demand is that the only electoral option available is a referendum. Local elections under the shadow of the 7.5 lakh Indian soldiers can be never be free and a substitute to the referendum.

Q: Given the fact that elections will take place, people will vote and elect representatives, who (party/person) do you see as the best to govern the state?

A: There is no difference between any of the local pro-India political parties or politicians as they are all only proxies. The real ruler is the Indian Home Ministry, with the local rulers only as puppets.

Q: So you will once again be calling for a boycott of the elections?

A: Yes, we will again call for a boycott of the elections as we believe that elections are used by India to exploit the people of J&K and used as a propaganda tool globally to strengthen and give a justification to the military occupation of the state.

Q: There are some who say that you do not wield as much influence over the Kashmiri youth as earlier.

A: This is an assumption and a part of the vicious propaganda unleashed by the Indian intelligence agencies to create a wedge between the Hurriyat and the youth of Kashmir. The youth of Kashmir are with us, connected by their heart and soul and therefore no false propaganda can take them away from us.

Q: How do you rate the Omar Abdullah regime?

A: Kashmiris have been exploited and their rights consistently trampled during last 67 years of the Indian rule and it is continuing even under the rule of the puppet, Omar Abdullah, who has proved to be the Nero of Kashmir. His rule has been the worst of all. He has proved to be an incompetent person.

Q: How do you rate the Narendra Modi government? Any fears?

A: It does not matter who is ruling India, the policy of the Government of India remains the same – of political stubbornness and hegemony. But besides these facts, the new government of India headed by Narendra Modi is based on the RSS ideology and agenda and is working towards creating a “Hindu Rashtra”.

Q: What’s your reaction on Modi’s stand and Union Minister Jitendra Singh’s statement on Article 370? Is it the portrayal of GOI’s policy?

A: There is great disconnect between the stated position and the real intent of the Government of India on this. The stated policy may be of “no abrogation” but in reality the government of India is working covertly to destroy it (Article 370) but it is not openly ready to acknowledge it due to fears of reprisals. The position is deceitful.

Q: Do you still think that Pakistan can be an alternative for the Kashmiris, when that country has so much internal strife?

A: Our demand is the right of self-determination for the people of J&K. We want respect for our rights and demands and believe people of the state of Jammu and Kashmir are politically mature and capable enough to make a decision, when given a chance to choose.

Q: How do you see the overtures of PM Narendra Modi to Nawaz Sharif, do you think he is serious about resolving issues with Pakistan?

A: It is premature to comment on this question. Only time will decide how he will fare and only then can his performance be judged.

Q: What future do you see for your outfit – Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, given the fact that there have been splits?

A: All separatists have a common goal vis-a-vis the independence of Jammu and Kashmir. Our paths may appear to be separate but the goal remains same and we are all working towards this common goal.

Q: Why is there a trust deficit in the Kashmiris when it comes to the Government of India?

A: The Government of India and the political leadership is responsible for this trust deficit as it is the Indian leadership that has backtracked on the promises made to the people of Jammu and Kashmir time and again. Right from 1947, India has not fulfilled even a single promise made to the people of Kashmir.

Q: Who do you think was the best PM of India vis-à-vis Kashmir in the last 30-40 years? Why?

A: When it comes to the Kashmir dispute, all the rulers of India have proved to be spineless and indecisive. No Indian Prime Minister has been able to take a bold initiative to resolve this long pending dispute. Instead they have used the sufferings of the people of J&K for personal political gains, to strengthen their authority and position – both within the political parties they represent and within the governments they have headed or are heading.

Q: What is your take on the Government of India’s response over the Gaza crisis?

A: The Indian stand on this issue can be termed as criminal as it tacitly sided with the Israeli terroris actions on the people of Palestine. The silence is not befitting for a country claiming to be the world’s largest democracy.

Q: What future do you see for Kashmir in next 10 years?

A: I feel that the youth of Kashmir hold the key and I see that the youth here is full of valor and their hearts are filled with the passion for azadi (freedom). And this passion is what will lead us and be decisive in our demand and goal for freedom in the next ten years. Insha Allah!

- This story was first published in on August 18, 2014. This was also carried by, among others. 

Delhi BJP keen to form minority government, avoid elections. Leaders jockey for chief minister’s post

August 6, 2014

New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party is ready to form a minority government in Delhi. The state leadership of the party has come on record for the first time to admit that they are open to the idea of a minority government. This decision has sent BJP leaders in an overdrive in the race to be the party’s chief ministerial candidate.

“There have been minority government’s in the country, there is nothing wrong in it,” said senior BJP leader and MLA from Janakpuri Prof. Jagdish Mukhi. “No elected MLA wants to go for a mid-term elections, not even the MLAs of the Aam Aadmi Party. There has been a minority government at the centre too run by former PM P.V. Narshimha Rao. “

However, the Delhi BJP chief Satish Upadhyay had a very guarded response. “Only the Lieutenant Governor can take a call on the government formation,” he said. “If he calls the BJP, we will take it seriously and discuss the formation of a minority government. There has been a precedence of minority governments.”

Though earlier BJP president Amit Shah was not inclined to go for a minority government in Delhi, party insiders say that Nitin Gadkari has convinced Mr Shah that a minority government was the need of the hour in the national capital.

Leaders scramble for top job

With the very real possibility of a BJP government being formed in Delhi, several leaders are in the fray for the chief minister’s job. The leaders who are reported to be in the race are Dr Harshvardhan, Prof Jagdish Mukhi, Rambir Singh Bidhuri, Meenakshi Lekhi, Nand Kishore Garg, Vijay Goel, Vijender Gupta and Ashish Sood.

Apart from lobbying within the party, they are cranking up their presence on social media or hired PR agencies. Facebook pages named “Dr Jagdish Mukhi the next CM of Delhi” and “Meenakshi Lekhi as Delhi CM” have already cropped up.

“Now that you have informed me, I will get it closed down,” said Mr Mukhi, when told about the Facebook page about him. “I don’t back it, this has happened in the past too. This might have been done by an enthusiastic supporter”.

Meanwhile party MLA from Tri Nagar, Nand Kishore Garg has hired agencies to handle his public relations and social media promotion. “I think every politician has certain aspirations and being the chief minister of a state is one of them,” said Mr Garg. “People are trying to make their case before senior party leaders.”

Who stands where

Based on the information gathered by The Political Indian from Delhi BJP leaders, this is how the various leaders stack up in the race to be chief minister.

Dr Harshvardhan: He is the cleanest and most popular face the BJP in Delhi. But he is a central minister and is unlikely to be relieved to lead Delhi. He is also not keen to be the chief minster of a minority government and would prefer to lead the party into fresh elections.

Prof Jagdish Mukhi: A seven time MLA, he is the frontrunner for the post as of now. Though party sources say that in case the MLAs were to elect the leader, he won’t be able to make it.

Rambir Singh Bidhuri: MLA from Badarpur constituency,Mr Bidhuri is close to Nitin Gadkari. Sources say, he is the one who is in touch with MLAs from other parties, who will help to form and run a minority government. Mr Gadkari would support him for the post, but his party-hopping nature is unacceptable to the RSS. He has been in the Congress, NCP and the BSP earlier.

Nand Kishore Garg: A former chief whip of the party, Mr Garg is a dark horse in the race, admits a party spokesperson. He is close to the RSS and may even be the choice of a majority of MLAs.

Vijay Goel: In the last assembly elections, the party had replaced him with Mr Harshvardhan as the party’s chief ministerial candidate. But there are indications that he is eyeing the post again. Mr Goel was recently in news for making controversial statement on the migrants in the capital. He has the backing of Home Minister Rajnath Singh and the powerful organizational secretary of the party Ramlal.

Meenakshi Lekhi: BJP MP from New Delhi parliamentary constituency is also reported to be in the race, though party insiders say her chances are weak.

Vijender Gupta: Mr Gupta has been active in the Delhi political circuit for long and has served as the president of the state unit too. He had been a trusted man of former Delhi BJP in-charge Mr Gadkari.

Ashish Sood: A close ally of Arun Jaitley, Mr Sood is also in the running. But his not being an MLA is a big hurdle for him, in the case of the party forming a minority government. Mr. Sood is presently the vice president of the party’s state unit and municipal councilor from Janakpuri.

- This story was first published in on August 6, 2014

Inside BJP: Opposition to Amit Shah irrelevant. He is set to become party chief after budget

July 4, 2014

Delhi: PM Narendra Modi’s blue-eyed boy Amit Shah appears all set to be the next BJP chief despite the reservations of senior party leaders like Rajnath Singh, LK Advani and Sushma Swaraj. Though there is no official word, the announcement of Mr Shah’s elevation could come soon after the Union budget presentation on 10 July.

“There is no opposition to Amit Shah as party president, even if someone has reservations, it hardly matters,” said a party spokesperson on condition of anonymity. “The party cadres and the people want him to take the charge and lead. Why should the views of two leaders eclipse the massive support that he has? He has shown his capability in Uttar Pradesh, the organizational skills, the quality to lead, that is all what matters.”

Some leaders fear that with the elevation of Amit Shah, Narendra Modi’s control of the BJP will become absolute. But the dominant view is that the Modi-Shah combine benefits the party. “They have won the elections for the party,” said the spokesperson. “It was Modi magic and the hard work of Mr Shah in UP which gave us the great results, why shouldn’t they run the affairs? If we were led by someone else, the results would have been quite different.”

Mr Shah’s organizational skills, the massive electoral success in UP and the backing of the Modi-Jaitley-Gadkari troika has helped his bid for the party’s top post. Sources say Arun Jaitley is lobbying for Mr Shah’s elevation and is speaking to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) through its leader Suresh Soni. However, the final call has to be taken by the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and the Sangh’s second-in-command Bhaiyaji Joshi.

Silence of the anti-Shah brigade

Among the government top brass, Rajnath Singh and Sushma Swaraj are not keen on Amit Shah’s rise. The home minister and outgoing party president Mr Singh fears that his loyal foot-soldiers will be sidelined in a party led by Amit Shah. Meanwhile Ms Swaraj, along with Lal Krishna Advani,
have not been on good terms with Mr Modi or his loyalists like Mr Shah. Yet, no leader has spoken on the record against Mr Shah, nor have they explicitly backed the other candidates like Jagat Prakash Nadda or Om Mathur.

Initially, Mr Shah’s elevation had seemed tough due to two reasons. First, the court cases against Mr Shah for alleged involvement in the encounter deaths of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and wife Kauserbi and the killing of witness Tulsiram Prajapati. Second, it was assumed that the RSS will be uncomfortable with both the prime minister and party president being from Gujarat.

However, they both seem like non-issues now. “The cases against him are very weak,” said a BJP leader. “And as far as the PM and party chief being from the same state is concerned, there is no written rule. When Rajiv Gandhi was the prime minister, Kamlapati Tripathi was the working president of the Congress, both represented Uttar Pradesh.”

- This story was first published in on July 4, 2014

Interview: Modi government already looking for alibis for its failures, says Lalu’s daughter Misa Bharti

June 25, 2014

Patna: Misa Bharti, the eldest daughter of former Bihar chief ministers, Lalu Prasad and Rabri Devi, lost the Lok Sabha elections from Patliputra, a casualty of the “Modi wave” that gave the BJP alliance 31 out of the state’s 40 seats. But the qualified medical professional is neither down, nor out: in an interview she outlines the Rashtriya Janata Dal’s agenda, the “alliance” with Nitish Kumar, slams the Narendra Modi government and asks them to learn from her father Lalu Prasad Yadav on how to turn the Indian Railways profitable without “burdening the poor”.

Q.  You lost a close fight from Pataliputra to Ram Kripal Yadav. Do you regret contesting against your “uncle” who had been an old associate of your father?

A. When you are asked to contest an election by the party, the idea is to stand for and advocate the ideology your party is committed to. And we should not forget that the party is much bigger than individuals and ideological battles are not decided by the outcome of an election. I’m satisfied with my debut performance where I led in three out of six assembly constituencies. I’m in politics for the long term, and when you do things with conviction, there is no regret regret.
Moreover we knew in advance that “uncle” was hobnobbing with BJP for greener pastures since last one year as he wanted to ride the Modi wave and fulfill his dream of becoming a minister and launching his son in politics, which he couldn’t being in RJD.

Q. How do you see the new alliance in Bihar, your father Lalu Prasad Yadav and Nitish Kumar joining hands to stop the BJP?

A. I believe on the basis of our stand in the Rajya Sabha elections, it is too premature to call it an alliance. However, our party is guided by the fact that my father and our national president categorically stated on 16 May that all those forces fighting for social justice, and are committed to socialist principles and have positioned themselves against communal politics need to put their acts together at an all-India level. We shall certainly strive to make sure that the regressive, rightwing politics does not remain unchallenged.

Q. Huge numbers of RJD members have deserted the party in the past; do you plan to reach them out to get them back to the party-fold?

A. The “huge” in the question is a bit of exaggeration. Certain individuals indeed have left the party but you must check when and why they have left. We need to understand that there are individuals who are exclusively guided and are in fact obsessed with the greed for power. What can the party do about them? Every party in India suffers from this and we are no exception. If politics has to be seen from the perspective of transformatory potential, one should be willing to jettison the desire for always remaining in the corridors of power.

Q. You were named Misa after the controversial Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA) passed by the Congress in 1971, which led to the incarceration of your father. Did you ever feel conflicted supporting the Congress?

A. One must learn from history but that does not mean one should become a prisoner to history. When I was named, those were the days of anti-congressism and our party was born as a reaction to those authoritarian streaks but the subsequent realities were different. Both Congress and India’s political scenario have changed a lot since then. We have witnessed the way BJP tried to communalize the whole nation since the 1990s, riots became a political strategy for them leading to the loss of thousands of innocent lives. As a sensible and sensitive political party which cared for an inclusive India, we had to stand with the Congress while having our own separate ideology and principles. In fact, I am proud of my party which took a stand for the “Idea of United India” without caring for political losses and profits as some of the other parties have done.

Q. In the next generation of politics in Bihar, Chirag Paswan has taken a lead by firming up the LJP-BJP alliance.

A. My political belief does not allow me to comment on individuals but I believe politics in the coming days and years shall be seriously weighed on the basis of conviction to ideas that shape an India which belongs to all. Politics shall be a vocation, wherein people with progressive ideas and secular democratic outlook shall be valued and in that context RJD has an edge compared to any other political party or individuals. Chirag is young and was with us till recently. But, LJP is not an ideology based party but a power seeking opportunist party and in terms of mass base or vote share, LJP stands nowhere in comparison to RJD.

Q. The NDA alliance swept the general elections in Bihar, according to you as an individual, why did this happen?

A. The 16th Lok Sabha election was very different from the other general elections. We saw an unholy alliance of neoliberal corporatism with rightwing Sangh kind of politics, with a section of the media as conduit. Examine the discourse and you would find that the real issues affecting the lives of the poor, the downtrodden and the minorities were not allowed to occupy centrestage. Large sums of money were used, and as a result, parties like us which did not have other resources except peoples’ conviction, lost. We lost to the carefully crafted frenzy.

Q. You are a medical professional. In the recent encephalitis outbreak in Bihar, do you think the medical assistance being provided by the state government is up to the mark?

A. If you examine the medical history of this “encephalitis corridor” for past seven years, you realize that there is a discernible pattern to it. The government certainly has fallen much short of what it should have done. I believe in such matters, subject experts should be making the decisions and not the political bosses or the bureaucracy. We should also actively seek international pathological and research expertise. Callousness in this may be because the affected kids come from poor families from remote corners in India and no one bothers about them.

Q. How do you rate the Modi government after its first month in power?

A. The Modi government is going along the predictable lines, what we always believed. Look at the key appointments, whether of the NSA or the Principal Secretary, they all come from rightwing organizations. We have also examined the intent of the government through presidential address, which was a copy—paste version of Modiji’s election speeches. A party which vitiated the election atmosphere by using rhetoric of war against Pakistan has suddenly changed the tenor, with saree & shawl exchanges, forgetting our beheaded martyrs.

The Nihal Chand episode shows government’s doublespeak on the issue of clean politics. Inflation is on the rise and the government is clueless, just blaming the hoarders and state governments. Rise in railway fares by a never before whopping 14 percent will flare up inflation further and is a huge anti-poor decision. They can seek my dad’s advice on how to run railways in profit without burdening the poor. Appointment of several naïve and inexperienced ministers in key portfolios is another sign of the centralized authority of the PM.

Many ministers are unable to get private secretaries of their choice. The propaganda and investigations against several NGOs on the pretext of foreign funding is another way of silencing the voice of the common man and civil society which keeps a tab on anti-poor policies of the government. Even their latest stand on FDI in key sectors like defence goes against their old ideology of swadeshi. Insiders tell us that soon railways would be up for privatization.

In last few weeks, their language has changed and they have only looked for alibis for their gross failures. One person calling all the shots is not a good sign for democracy. Are we creating our very own, homegrown Hitler? I do not wish to sound a cynic but the early signals do not speak well for the Modi government’s approach. Lagta nahin ki achhe din aayenge.

- This story was first published in on June 25, 2014