Former Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal Monday said communalism is a bigger problem facing the country than corruption, the main platform of his Aam Aadmi Party and the central theme of much of his politics so far.
Addressing an audience comprising prominent Muslim academics and intelligentsia at the India Islamic Cultural Centre, Kejriwal sidestepped a question about whether he would fight against the BJP’s prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi in the Lok Sabha elections while other AAP leaders targeted the “communal” politics of the Gujarat chief minister.
“Communalism is a bigger problem in front of the country than corruption and it is never about people fighting each other. It is political parties who pit communities against one another for narrow electoral gains. But the truth is, neither has BJP ever done anything for Hindus nor Congress for Muslims,” Kejriwal said.
Although Kejriwal made a powerful pitch against communalism, the absence of Muslim candidates in AAP’s first list and his reluctance to commit to a face-off with Modi agitated some in the audience.
Accompanied by former journalist Ashutosh, who is set to fight on an AAP ticket from Chandni Chowk, and controversial former Delhi minister Somnath Bharti, Kejriwal said both Modi and the Congress stand for crony capitalism.
“Do not trust a man who flies down from Gandhinagar to meet victims of the Patna blasts but in 13 hours does not visit Gulbarg Society barely a few miles away,” Ashutosh said.
All three repeatedly said AAP does not believe in treating communities differently on the basis of their religion.
Asked whether he would take on Modi in the Lok Sabha elections like he had done with then Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit, Kejriwal said: “There is no certainty yet on whether Modi is fighting elections or not. Traditionally, Congress and BJP have never fielded strong candidates against each other’s top leaders. We bucked that trend for the first time by giving a tough fight to Sheila Dikshit. Even now we have fielded Kumar Vishwas who is a very senior AAP leader against Rahul Gandhi.”
When his displeased audience persisted with the demand, he said: “I can leave you with this promise that we will field a very strong candidate against Modi.”
On AAP’s first list having no Muslim names, he said once all names were out, there would not be any cause for complaint, “although we do not look at caste and religion when distributing party tickets”.