Making a second bid for the people’s mandate to govern Delhi, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) chief and former Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal promised an overhaul of higher education in the capital with 20 new colleges, incubation services for budding entrepreneurs, subsidised education loans and more.
Kejriwal, who was the guest at the Express Adda in Mumbai on Friday evening, appeared to be moving towards a more broad-based politics from his anti-corruption platform, detailing a variety of plans he had for the capital, ranging from making it India’s first fully WiFi city to reducing VAT.
Speaking to Deputy Editor Seema Chishti, he said his Delhi Dialogues, an effort to draft policies for Delhi that will form the core of AAPs re-election campaign, would focus specifically on the youth. On his plans for the education sector, Kejriwal said if his party wins the coming Delhi assembly elections, his government would set up 20 new colleges on the outskirts of the city, with a curriculum focused on skills and entrepreneurship. Students in these colleges would get access to their incubation centres for two years, to test and run an enterprise.
Kejriwal also said government underwriting of student loans was an idea that could be explored. “In five years, we will make education in government schools of such good quality that even rich parents will want to send their children to these schools,” he said.
Also on his youth policy, he said a crackdown on the drug mafia was critical, to ensure Delhi does not go the Punjab way.
Among his other plans for Delhi, he promised to bring down VAT to among the lowest rates in India. This will encourage trade and jobs, he reasoned. For women’s security, Kejriwal proposed a connected CCTV coverage throughout the entire city.
Kejriwal said the biggest political lesson that he has learnt is “to never give one’s resignation”. Asked whether the AAP was capable of handling power effectively, he said, “I admit people are unhappy that we resigned. But it was a mistake, not a crime. Koi gunaah nahi kiya.” While he said he should have consulted the people before stepping down as Chief Minister after 49 days in government, Kejriwal added that he was seeking a fresh chance.
He said an organisational restructuring and strengthening was also underway in AAP through “Mission Vistaar”. While he admitted that the decision to spread themselves thin to contest the Lok Sabha elections was a mistake, Kejriwal said his party was buoyed by the fact that its vote share in Delhi had increased. “The assembly election is different. It will be a seedhi takkar (straight fight) between the BJP and us,” he said.
Asked about his party’s symbol, the broom, being co-opted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Swachh Bharat Mission, Kejriwal said he believed several other AAP ideas had been copied by other parties, including the BJP. He cited the missed-call-for-membership, the cap and the broom as ideas that the BJP had copied.
Kejriwal said the Modi government was not doing enough to check corruption. “Their main poll planks were anti-corruption and price rise, but tell me one area where corruption has fallen since the new government took charge at the Centre,” he said. “Potatoes were Rs 10 per kg when the AAP government was in office in Delhi. They are now Rs 40 per kg.”