“Main koi neta nahin hoon (I am no leader).” The chartered accountant-turned-politician Raghav Chadha tells a reporter in his south Delhi office that is brimming with party workers amid the protracted uncertainty over the AAP-Congress alliance. For the uninitiated, Chadha is Aam Aadmi Party’s youngest spokesperson and a familiar face on television debates. And, last month, the 30-year-old filed his nomination from South Delhi after leading a roadshow themed on ending “‘goonda raj” in his constituency.
A confident Chadha said it will be a clean sweep for him as well as the six-year-old Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP, as they are going to the people with their “good work of the last four years, particularly in education, healthcare, power and water sectors”.
Fighting on the agenda of ‘Poorna Rajya Banao Jhadu ka Button Dabao’, the party is busy convincing people to vote for AAP so that Delhi is granted full statehood.
Once AAP gets seven seats in Delhi, Chadha said, the party will ensure that full statehood is granted within 24 months of winning the elections.
But will statehood resolve all the problems of Delhi? “Joblessness, women’s safety, admission in schools and colleges of Delhi residents, and having a pucca house, all of that will be possible only when Delhi gets full statehood,” he said.
In his words, even though AAP’s win is assured, it still wanted an alliance with the Congress. But did it not mean that the AAP was not confident to go it alone?
Chadha differed and said AAP believes that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah — “the anti-democratic dictatorial duo” — are harmful to India’s democracy. “For democracy in India to survive, and to maintain the sanctity and for all institutions to start functioning again independently can happen only when the anti-BJP vote doesn’t get split. This will happen only by putting one opposition candidate against the BJP candidate and, therefore, we feel that all political, as well as non-political forces need to work in that direction,” he said.
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After more than a month of discussions over a possible alliance, the AAP said an alliance just in Delhi is not possible when the Congress has refused tie-ups elsewhere.
The party has also come out with a report card of South Delhi sitting MP Ramesh Bidhuri in which it claimed that people were fearful of the BJP MP and his work has been negligible in the area. The AAP candidate alleged that Bidhuri has been attacking people from other states living in the South Delhi constituency. Recently, Chadha, in a tweet, had threatened to move court against the nomination of Bidhuri.
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Elaborating how he is different from Bidhuri, Chadha said: “Above all, the sitting MP is someone who people fear going to because of his behaviour and conduct. I wish to change that and I wish to be accessible, polite, nice and basically, just be who I am with the people so that people can come to me without fear. People are scared to go to his office because you never know how he will react, so that’s a big concern for the people of south Delhi.”
The AAP leader alleged that in the last few months, BJP has been trying to divide people on the lines of their geographical origins, not just on caste and religion. “Now, they are doing ‘shetravad’, as they call it, by asking people from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar who migrated to Delhi to leave the national capital.”
In contrast to the 2014 general elections, AAP has decided to field candidates in 100 seats this time, primarily in Punjab, Haryana and Delhi. In 2014, the party had fielded over 400 candidates across the country but managed to win just four seats in Punjab.
What will be the clinching factors this time? “There are elections that one fights to build an organisation and then there are elections to win the elections. I think this time we are fighting to win the elections,” Chadha said.
AAP is targeting states where they have the paraphernalia to challenge the BJP, he said, adding that they will channelise all their energy and resources in those selected cities.
“We are fighting in pockets where we are very strong like Punjab where we have four MPs, in Haryana, we have done some tremendous amount of groundwork in the last four years, so that is going to be a battleground. Delhi, of course, is a state where we have a government that came to power with a massive majority and Goa, where also we have a significant presence.”
The sealing drive in West Delhi’s Mayapuri has resulted in a blame game with Kejriwal using it to push for full statehood while the BJP blaming the city administration.
On being asked about BJP MP Manoj Tiwari’s claim that the sealing drive was done at the behest of Delhi CM, the AAP candidate said that Tiwari and his party owe an apology to the people of Delhi for “spreading such utter falsehood and ridiculous and shameless statements”. “Everyone in Delhi, every trader in Delhi knows that it’s the Bharatiya Janata Party that is behind the sealing drive. They have sealed hundreds of thousands of shops and establishments in the entire city, which has resulted in huge revenue loss, massive unemployment and left multiple families without bread and butter.”
Chadha feels the Lok Sabha elections will be an election where regional forces will play the role of a formidable challenger to the BJP and will result in the ouster of Modi and Shah. “In Bengal, you have Mamata Banerjee taking on the BJP, in UP there is SP-BSP gathbandhan, the RJD-Congress combine in Bihar, Biju Janata Dal in Odisha, DMK in Tamil Nadu, NCP in Maharashtra and in Delhi you have the Aam Aadmi Party, he added.
Voting in the national capital is slated for May 12.
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