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Reeling from defeats in the Punjab Assembly elections and the Rajouri Garden bypoll, the upcoming municipal elections are crucial for the Aam Aadmi Party. The Indian Express speaks to Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia about the road ahead.
Have defeats in Punjab and Rajouri Garden hit the party’s popularity?
We could see the result in Rajouri Garden beforehand. We knew the decision of the party to send Jarnail Singh to Punjab — it was not and couldn’t have been Singh’s decision alone — had angered people. But I look at this a little positively. If the bypoll and municipal elections had happened at the same time, public anger would have been reflected in both results. But when people have expressed their anger with such apnapan, they become neutral the next time.
What about the perception that Punjab results will harm your prospects in Delhi?
If we had won in Punjab, it wouldn’t have meant that MCD election was a cakewalk. In municipal polls, issues are different. Punjab was important from the national point of view and I still feel that while our targets were very high, for a party that is four years old, to form the government in one state, be the opposition in another and have 6 per cent vote share in the third state is not a setback. On the other hand, yes, in Punjab we had several plans and the defeat there is a setback for those plans.
Several senior BJP and Congress leaders have come to Delhi to campaign. What impact will this have?
Both parties lack issues. BJP’s problem is that it can’t save face. With what credibility will they go to people and say we will do this or that? How can they say we will clean Delhi? The Prime Minister propagated Swachh Bharat for three years, he swept a part of Delhi, despite that you couldn’t do it… They have no option but to talk about macro issues. We are talking about micro issues like garbage, building plans, parks, roads and house tax.
What do you believe will work in your favour?
The work we have done in health, education, water and power… No one spoke about these issues.
The Shunglu Committee report points out several irregularities in the Delhi government’s functioning. How do you respond?
The whole report does not point to a single instance of corruption. What it lists out are problems in procedures. We are an unconventional party that got unconventional, out of the box support in 2015. We need to change some things and that’s where procedural issues come in. We didn’t send files to the L-G for approval as it is our stand that an elected government does not need to. The case is in Supreme Court. Most of our MLAs are almost hand to mouth. How will they set up an MLA office? We gave them offices in government buildings. PWD flats were given, space in DJB offices were given. What’s the crime in that? When it comes to Abhinav Rai’s and Swati Maliwal’s accommodations — it ought to be the government’s decision just like it has always been… Salary adjustment, where one person is appointed in place of two and is given an ‘adjusted salary’, is a common practice. There is a difference between corruption and questioning impractical rules.
You have been campaigning in your constituency for the past few days. What is the feedback from the ground?
People are saying we will vote for you. The last meeting I attended was with parents who are very happy with the decrease in fees of private schools. A perception is being created… that everything has gone wrong with AAP. Ground reality is very positive. This is the first time people are seeing something happening that directly affects their lives. Big, symbolic things have always taken centrestage, but decreasing power and water bills, reducing school fee, getting EWS admission without approaching a powerful person — all these things matter to people.