East Delhi is in the news every day because of sparring between Atishi and Gambhir. Aren’t you being framed as the third candidate?
This is a fight between Twitter-wallahs and a man on the ground. Election is going on and both candidates are busy elsewhere — sometimes with errors in nomination papers, sometimes with election commission norms. She (Atishi) has so much time that she’s conducting a press conference every day. I don’t even have time to eat or talk to anyone. I am among the people, telling them that candidates who don’t come to you even during elections will definitely not come to you afterwards. These people are on a political picnic.
Because of the confusion over an alliance between AAP and Congress, Atishi was declared as a candidate before you were. Do you think you lost valuable campaigning time because of that?
I have been working for and in this area since the age of 15, almost over 30 years. There is not a single street where I don’t know at least a few people personally. I am told she has been at it for six months. Then why is she not on the ground? As far as the alliance is concerned… we waited for them till the end. Our cadre were completely against the alliance… Despite that, Rahul Gandhi looked at the national perspective and thought it shouldn’t appear that the Congress considers itself above allying with small parties. We said we would do it in Delhi but their greed didn’t reduce and reached Haryana, Goa and Punjab. It doesn’t work that way.
Gambhir is also portraying himself as a local leader and speaking on local issues.
A couple of days ago, Gambhir went to Trilokpuri, and I also went there the other day. In this heat, he could only be there for half an hour. I did a padyatra for six hours. People in Trilokpuri know this is the difference between someone trying to portray himself as a ground person and someone who is really one.
Do you feel your support base eroded because of your temporary shift to BJP?
I left for a few months and that was because of internal fights and not ideological differences. I will always regret that shift. When I joined back after a few months, I said I was an ideological misfit in BJP. I can’t compromise with my ideology and I’m a generational Congressman. I myself am a member of a minority, there is no place for us in that party. Everybody knows it was a temporary action taken in a situation of anger.
You had left the party because of disagreements with Ajay Maken. What is your equation with him now?
Ajay ji and I are on good terms now. Congress leaders are putting up a united face in Delhi. All group leaders are contesting this time — Maken ji, Sheila ji, JP Agarwal. This is the first time Congress is putting up a united face and we do hope Delhi will see changes.
You’re the only Sikh candidate in the fray in Delhi. Do you feel the community is under-represented in terms of candidates?
Not just Delhi, I’m the only Sikh candidate in the entire country outside Punjab; but I have never done community politics. I have never been known as a Sikh leader. I have an equal following amongst Muslims. I am more Jain than Sikh — in Jain functions, I am the most invited politician.