Congress should realise it will survive only if the country does: Gopal Raihttps://indianexpress.com/elections/congress-should-realise-it-will-survive-only-if-the-country-does-gopal-rai-5619742/

Congress should realise it will survive only if the country does: Gopal Rai

AAP's Delhi convenor Gopal Rai said people have realised the Congress is more keen on ensuring its survival than standing up for values we cherish and for defeating the BJP.

Congress should realise it will survive only if the country does: Gopal Rai
Gopal Rai, AAP Delhi convenor (Express photo by Tashi Tobgyal)

What’s your assessment of the current political situation in Delhi?

The BJP bagged seven seats in 2014. During our door-to-door campaign, which covered 70% of Delhi, we found an overwhelming majority are not aware of any work these MPs have done. People were quick to point out how they remained silent on issues like sealing and Metro fare hike. They colluded with the L-G and the Centre and created hurdles for the AAP government. On law and order, they ensured that thana-level committees, which had MLAs as members, were disbanded. Their biggest act of fraud was on statehood. In fact, whatever little power the Delhi government had was snatched away through an MHA notification. Despite everything, what we did in education, health, power, water and delivery of public services is unprecedented and we are going to people with the message that statehood will help increase the rate of work significantly. There are around 2 lakh vacancies in the Delhi government and statehood will ensure posts are filled up and more schools and hospitals will come up if land comes under us.

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Your assessment completely leaves out the Congress.

People had given the Congress equal seats in the past. But there is a reason it was decimated in the 2015 Assembly polls. People are confident AAP will be back in 2020.

Is the issue of statehood resonating with people?

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Yes, ordinary people have started believing statehood will make AAP immune to constant harassment from the Centre. Not everyone understands the complexities, but this belief is resonating with the masses. They know that if all seven MPs are from AAP, the issue will reach the Parliament. And we are holding dialogues with every party of the mahagathbandhan and getting them to pledge to help us achieve our objective. A misconception is often floated that Delhi cannot be granted full statehood as it is the capital, housing important centres of power, embassies, etc. But we have a simple solution: Keep NDMC area under the Centre and give the rest to the state government.

Read: NRC, national security in our manifesto, not statehood: Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari

How will you justify the eagerness which the AAP displayed to ally with the Congress?

See, it was not about a seat here or a seat there. Our eagerness was based on ideological grounds. We set aside our differences with the Congress as we recognised the need to protect our institutions, to prevent the country from hurtling towards an undeclared autocracy, to protect our civil liberties. Our decision, based on a dialogue with other mahagathbandhan partners, was purely aimed at serving the national interest.

Now that coalition talks have nearly broken down, don’t you think BJP will gain out of it?

I think the 2019 polls will be a deeply polarised one. Votes will either be for Modi or anti-Modi. And people have realised the Congress is more keen on ensuring its survival than standing up for values we cherish and for defeating the BJP. Hence, the anti-BJP vote will not split. The Congress’ position is intensely selfish and narrow-minded. They should realise the party will survive only if the country does.

Is there still some chance of an understanding with the Congress?

After what (Congress president) Rahul Gandhi said on Thursday, things can be ruled out. And actually, we are not interested anymore. There is very less time in any case. This election is very crucial for us. If we lose, the fight for statehood will suffer a major jolt and being in government will become more difficult.