Sheila Dikshit: AAP has lost its credibility; this election is for saving the idea of India

Confident of doing well in Delhi, veteran Congress leader and former Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit feels AAP has lost its credibility and adds that PM Modi lacks the dignity of earlier prime ministers

Sheila Dikshit with Khurram Raza (NH Photo)
Sheila Dikshit with Khurram Raza (NH Photo)

S Khurram Raza

AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal has been giving the impression that it was because of the Congress that an alliance did not materialise. What is the truth behind this?

I don’t think what he is saying is correct. Personally, I was not for it at all, because ours is a very established party and has its presence all over the country. AAP is just confined to Delhi or a little bit in Haryana. AAP is not a sustainable party so why should we join them. We have won several elections by ourselves and perhaps lost a few also but losing and winning is a part and parcel of politics.

In Delhi, the major issue AAP is raising is full statehood for Delhi while the BJP is pushing the nationalism agenda. What is the focus of the Congress?

Our focus is the development of the city. The Congress was in power here for fifteen years and we transformed it into a modern city. We tried to build and develop whatever was possible and thus we left a mark on Delhi. Unfortunately, we lost the elections as AAP drew people towards them by making all kinds of false promises like free electricity, free water etc. The people got carried away and they definitely would have wanted a change of government. In democracy, people do look for change. The people of Delhi wanted the change and they got it but now the Congress is remembered for all the work it had done and we are now confident that in these elections, our party will do well.

You are fighting against two leaders Narendra Modi and Arvind Kejriwal both of whom are accused of making false promises at the time of elections. So how will you take on these leaders?

Our fight is issue-based. We need to make Delhi one of the best cities. Delhi is the capital of the country and so it requires constant attention. Not only people from abroad come here but people from all over the country visit the capital. So Delhi has a greater responsibility to present and project a picture of what India really is.

What according to you were the major challenges in Delhi?

The major challenge was to work in coordination with the Lieutenant Governor (LG) and go to him for everything. There was always something which could be stopped. But we kept a cooperative profile and managed to bring Metro, CNG, AC and Non AC busses. The first phase of our government functioned when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister of country and during the second phase, Dr Manmohan Singh was the Prime Minister. But I can’t say that Vajpayee did not cooperate because it is in the interest of every political party that the capital looks beautiful and functions smoothly.

But if you look at AAP government today, Kejriwal has been talking of getting busses for long but has not brought a single bus and there are no problems with the LG on such issues.

The present Chief Minister has always been fighting with the Centre. What’s your opinion about the present situation?

Well, I don’t think it is a practical thing to do. We have to work for the good of the city. We have to work within the law, within the constitutional framework and we have to work together.

AAP is highlighting its demand for full statehood for Delhi. So, if the party win all the seven seats, can Delhi get full statehood.

I think people have been misguided on this issue. Delhi can get full statehood only by bringing an amendment in the Constitution approved by both the Houses of the parliament.

What do you think about the full statehood of Delhi?

I don’t think any central government would like Delhi to be a full state because the Central government represents the whole country here and will certainly like to have some say in the developmental work here...

Do you think that Arvind Kejriwal has very deliberately created this impression of being constantly in confrontation with the Centre so that he can project himself as a rebel and get sympathy from the electorate?

Probably, you are right that he has consciously done it but has it helped him? I think his image has been drastically damaged over these few years. People gave him a historical mandate but now they feel cheated.

AAP came to power on the promise of giving corruption-free government. But in the last four years, four ministers have been dropped on different charges, so how do you see all this?

They talked about themselves as being ‘corruption-free’, but has anyone else said this about them? If you look at the advertisements at present, there are more advertisements of AAP than any other party all over Delhi. No other party, particularly Congress can afford all this. So, how we can call them corruption-free?

You have been a witness to the functioning of many prime ministers, what are your views about Narendra Modi as prime minister?

I don’t want to comment on him as he is the Prime Minister of India but one thing I would like to say. The kind of dignity that other prime ministers had, is not there. It is a general impression that he functions in a way which is not expected from the prime minister.

How is your party’s manifesto different than the previous one and the manifestos of other parties?

I think this is one of the best manifestos that we have had so far. In our manifesto, there is an assurance of income and livelihood too. I think it is the understanding of and empathy with those who need it more is what makes our manifesto very different and special.

Do you think ‘NYAY’ will be the key issue in Delhi as well?

Yes, I think so. People do talk about it. They have understood this and they have welcomed it. During our campaigning, whenever we mention it, people clap.

Now Priyanka Gandhi has joined active politics. What impact, do you think it will have?

Well, I think she has made a very good impact and she has been very popular. If you remember the roadshow both Rahul and Priyanka had in Lucknow, the response from the public was amazing. She is the one who is admired for whatever she has done so far, her approach and her way of communication has always been appreciated. We hope that she campaigns in Delhi too. We are looking forward to it.

Tell us something about your political journey.

I must thank Rajiv Gandhi. It was because of him that I joined politics. It was he who had asked me to contest election at that time. My father-in-law was alive at that time and my husband and father-in-law encouraged me. I was walking into a situation in which I had no personal experience. I won that election and became a minister. Joining politics is not what I aspired for but I happened to marched into it. Had I not been in politics, I would have liked to be a simple school teacher. It was very exciting to be a chief minister and we had a very good and efficient team plus I received good cooperation from the Centre as well. One thing we must remember that Delhi is our pride and not just for the person who gets an opportunity to govern it. I really feel very lucky to have governed this city. It has been a great experience.

If given an option, will you again opt for Congress and if yes, why?

Of course. I will always want to be in the Congress because ideals of the Congress are the ideals of India. Remember that, most of the development that has taken place in the country and the respect that this great country enjoys all over the world is because of the Congress.

The Congress president said that this election is for the soul of India so what is special about this election?

He is right because all the efforts in this election are aimed at defending the idea of India which was initially conceptualised by the Congress.

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