In this Idea Exchange, moderated by Editor (Chandigarh) Vipin Pubby, AAP candidate Gul Panag talks about joining the party and how she wil get work done.
Khushboo Sandhu: What is the response that the campaign is getting?
There are two kinds of reactions I get. One is just anger at the entire political class and the other is that of hope. The hope that they are seeing is not the hope that tomorrow things will change because I cannot promise that. All I am urging people is to be part of the initiation process. There was already a fair degree of response to the movement but post Kejriwal’s road show, there is a surge of solidarity which is overwhelming.
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Chitleen K Sethi: Before joining AAP were you involved with any work in Chandigarh?
I have been running an NGO out of Chandigarh – Col Shamsher Singh Foundation – for over four years now. The NGO is named after my grandfather who died two years ago. It was started when he was around. He worked in our village in district Fatehgarh Sahib. We subsequently signed an MOU with the UT Administration where we followed the Nawashahr model of tracking pregnancies.
Khushboo Sandhu: How did you handle the divisions in the AAP’s city unit when you took over?
In a party where you invite anybody and everybody to apply for a ticket, I think it was a very fair system. The dynamics that came out of the system were in some ways difficult to deal with. With 200 people applying for the ticket, we are left with 199 disappointed candidates. There is bound to be resentment. Arvind Kejriwal said on Sunday that he was happy with the way the party had rallied around despite its fractured nature. I think there is a divine hand somewhere. By 10 days, everybody was on board. People who were upset and had gone to other zones came back. It is good to have everybody on board and the fact that we are all in it together. It is a tightly knit group, though I must admit that we have had opposition parties approach our boys.
Mukesh Bhardwaj:Your government lasted for 49 days in Delhi. Why should people trust and vote for you?
I would like to place on record that the first Vajpayee government also lasted for 13 days. The government was formed with Congress support. There was massive debate on a repoll. Finally, because we wanted this bill to be passed, we chose to take the dubious support of the Congress party. Two parties joined hands to make sure the bill was not introduced because once introduced, they could not have opposed it. I think it was a symbolic resignation, one that we haven’t seen since the times of Lal Bahadur Shashtri. If there’s a repoll, the party will be elected with complete majority.
Kanchan Vasdev: How do you think you can make a difference in the city?
There exists a nexus between the administration and the elected representatives. That is one half of the problem. Another aspect being complete lack of will and that’s the major reason that Chandigarh is divided today. We have one Chandigarh that lives north of Madhya Marg that dosen’t lack any facilities in terms of schools, healthcare or infrastructure. There is a second Chandigarh that lives in the southern sectors which comprises the colonies and villages. There one is battling to ensure quality education, healthcare and sanitation. We are a welfare state and cannot run away from facts. We have to create equal opportunities to make Chandigarh a world class city. We have to ensure it is the safest place for women and children, and that it has the best public transportation network, transparency, accountability, educational hub, medical facilities and much more.
Tanbir Dhaliwal: What plans do you have for primary healthcare centres?
There exists a primary healthcare centre in every locality. I will have to fight tooth and nail with the MC, through the Administration and if required through the Governor to ensure primary healthcare centres are adequately manned. I will sit on their head till the job is done. I am a very difficult person to move over.
Sanjeev Sharma: How will you get the work done if the Administration is unresponsive?
The MP here was from the Congress, the government at the Centre is of the Congress, the Governor was from the Congress. It means there was something missing. Either there was no will to work or everyone was part of the nexus. If I do not have a share in the nexus then 50 per cent of the nexus would collapse. Without the involvement of the MP, the nexus cannot work. The Municipal Corporation Act needs to be amended so that elected members of the MC and the MP will get direct, defined and evident role and not merely a consultative role.
According to Article 239 of the Indian Constitution, UTs are governed by the President through the Administrator. Unfortunately we have a part time Administrator. He is either a part time Governor or a part time Administrator. We need a full time Administrator so that there is one person accountable for getting things done.
Jaskiran Kapoor: You are considered a celebrity candidate who has parachuted into the city. How are you handling that?
Just remember that our sitting MP made an entry into politics as a Rajya Sabha MP at the age of 35 from Punjab. A backdoor entry into politics after remaining active in youth politics in the darkest days of democracy in the Emergency after which he was awarded with a Rajya Sabha ticket. Thereon he contested from Chandigarh. He is from Tapa not Chandigarh. So when does one become an insider? Is Rahul Gandhi an insider in Amethi? The constitution of India says anyone can contest elections from anywhere. The fourth generation of my family is now in Chandigarh. The fact is that my father had to serve the nation with integrity. If that is to be held against me that I did not live my entire life in Chandigarh up till now because my father was serving the nation and then it gives me an outsider status. If there had been adequate opportunity I wouldn’t have to go to Mumbai, I would have been happy to live in Chandigarh.
Virender Kumar: Surveys show that AAP would not be forming a government at the Centre. So why should people here vote for you?
I would not like to comment on what the opinion polls say. Chandigarh deserves a full time MP. An MP who is not tainted or corrupt. He/she is answerable to the people and has to represent them. The possibility of AAP not forming a government at the Centre is possible. But are we trying to say if the BJP is to form a government they would be hostile to the constituencies that do not have a BJP MP? They cannot block what is meant for Chandigarh and the UT definitely deserves an MP who is willing to listen to the people of Chandigarh.
Chitleen K Sethi: What do you have to say about Haryana and Punjab fighting over Chandigarh?
Chandigarh has been the capital of Punjab and Haryana since the reorganisation of Punjab. There are many generations who have been born in Chandigarh. The number of people Chandigarh now supports is way beyond the original plan. A restructure of the basic governance structure is needed. But it cannot be done without reviewing part 8 of the Constitution. It is a very long process and its very sensitive. People of Punjab and Haryana and most importantly Chandigarh needs to be taken on board and then a consensus should be reached. I welcome Bansal’s suggestion that we need a Mayor-in-Council system. But he should have thought this 10 years ago.
Vipin Pubby: Who do you think is your closest competitor here?
It does not matter. I am here to focus on what I can do. I dont think about it. I feel it is a way to make yourself feel worse. My focus is to ensure I do my very best and make sure our volunteers are highly motivated. I cant afford to be distracted.
Jagmeeta Thind Joy: How do you intend to increase job opportunities in the city?
MSMED, that I spoke about earlier needs to be implemented. We have been denied the opportunity. There is a need to get service oriented industry here. We need more investment, we need to help people to raise more capital, we need to be entrepreneur friendly. The neighbouring states are implementing MSMED, we need to bring it here too. IT and IT enables services need to be brought in.
Srishti Choudhary: What are you planning for Panjab University?
Central status is the first thing. Its high on my personal agenda. I would also like to see representation of the student body in the Senate and try and get some order to the varsity.
Virender Kumar: What is the most important lesson you have learnt during campaigns?
That there are wheels within wheels within wheels. Everyday I discover a new wheel.