The AAP, which is making a foray, beyond its base in Delhi and now Punjab, into Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, is the only party which can stand up to the BJP and its misuse of central agencies against political opponents, says senior leader Raghav Chadha.
In an interview with IANS, Raghav Chadha, the party's newly-elected MP from Punjab and one of those who have been around the days of India Against Corruption (IAC), talks about the party's aims in Punjab, expansion plans, and other political issues.
Q: You have been elected as Member of Parliament for Upper House from Punjab. What difference do you find being shifted politically from Delhi to Punjab?
A: It's my good fortune that the party has considered me for the Rajya Sabha from Punjab, the state from which my family and I come from. There are several issues in which Union Government can be of significant assistance to Punjab.
And, that has been my endeavour for the first few days and will be for the next six years to raise the issue of Punjab... Punjab de haq di ladai ladenge (will fight for the rights of Punjab). So with that in mind, I am starting a new journey as a Member of Parliament and I am truly honoured that Bhagwant Man sahab and Kejriwal sahab have selected me for this position. And, it's a great opportunity to serve my motherland.
Q: So, it means you have shifted to Punjab politically from Delhi?
A: Well, there is a part of Punjab that lives in us irrespective of wherever we are physically located. That part of Punjab has been in me since the day I was born. My family hails from this state and we are Punjabi and its luck would have it, I have now been with the intervention of almighty God made to shift as far as my Karambhumi is concerned from Delhi to Punjab. Punjab which was my Matrbhumi has also become my Karambhumi now.
Q: Punjab has different problems - you will be working closely with Chief Minister. How are you going to handle the basic problems of drugs and corruption in the state?
A: Punjab has been systematically exploited by the previous regimes... there has been outright loot and plunder of all resources of the state. Punjab has been used as personal wealth of those who are ruling the state. Today Punjab is facing various problems like irregular supply of electricity, lack of coal, pipe water supply not reaching to every household.
Healthcare and transport are in pathetic condition in state, the challenge of drugs and law and order is huge, and above all what makes matter worse is that Punjab has the highest rate of unemployment... so it is really plagued with so many problems because the previous regimes have not really been interested in governance but have only been interested in filling their own coffers. With right political intention and honesty, we are going to resolve all issues one by one.
Q: If talking about freebies, the cabinet has approved 300 units of electricity which was a manifesto promise also. But how do you see the 'Revdi Culture' that sparked the spat between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal?
A: Delhi CM Kejriwal has answered the question on 'Revdi Culture' very well. And just to borrow from what he said, these are not Revdis, these are bricks that you are placing to build a self-reliant and developed nation.
These Revdis are the bedrock of a safety net that must exist with each individual in the country. Aam Aadmi Party does not believe in buying the aircraft for the Chief Minister fir Rs 5,000-7,000 crore, like the Chief Minister of Gujarat and other Chief Ministers have done in past.
We believe in giving this money back to the people. I don't understand how a minister and MP can get 4,000 unit of free electricity every month and those are not being treated as Revdis. But, if Kejriwal and Mann government gives basic level of electricity to each household, they are is being considered as Revdis.
It is very unfortunate... this is not Revdi, as I said, these are bricks to build a foundation of a developed nation.
Q: Do you think that Punjab can bear this despite financial stress?
A: There is no doubt that Punjab is in a very bad financial state. When you are outside the government, you use to claim that the debt on the state government is about Rs 2 lakh crore, however if we were to combine the debt over all corporations and etc, you know that the debt actually runs close to Rs 4 lakh crore.
So, financially Punjab is in a bad condition. However, there is an enough legroom for a determined and honest government to come out with welfare policies and provide basic safety net for the citizens of the state. And, the basic safety net comprises of lifelines - water, electricity, transport, education, and healthcare.
Q: AAP is foraying into Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal and other states and you are not aligning with any opposition parties. Though in Presidential poll, you have gone with opposition, but you are just trying to be equidistant to both the BJP and the Congress. Why so?
A: The only party today posing challenges to BJP is the AAP. We may not be as big as Congress in size, but perhaps AAP is the only challenge before the BJP today. And, Arvind Kejriwal is the only challenge to Prime Minister Modi today and this is something which BJP also realises.
Q: But, you are ruining Congress, not BJP. Why so?
A: We are not here to aid, advise and promote Congress or any other party. Look, the AAP's birth was against the regime that comprises BJP, Congress and other political parties. And, we have our own path, our own trajectory to follow.
We are nor dependent and compelled to follow anybody's load. Secondly, Congress does not have the appetite to take on the BJP. They don't have the requisite fire in the belly, but Arvind Kejriwal has that fire in the belly to take on the BJP.
Therefore, the AAP is the only alternative that can defeat the BJP. Congress can no more be challenge for the BJP.
Q: Is there any possibility that in 2024, AAP and Congress can come together under an umbrella alliance with other opposition party?
A: I am nobody to comment on what would be going to happen in 2024. We will see it in 2023 or in 2024. However, I fundamentally believe that these web of grand alliances can not defeat the BJP. You need a new idea and new brand of politics to defeat them.
This theoretical exercise of getting the number together and the arithmetic that all opposition parties try to bring all parties together is a failed idea. It is something which should not be pursued at all. If you really wish to defeat the BJP, you need a new idea and new brand of politics. Today, the symbol of new brand and idea of politics is Arvind Kejriwal.
Q: There has been allegations also that Arvind Kejriwal is like the 'Super Chief Minister of Punjab and you have been aiding him. So what is your response on that?
A: This is dirty propaganda of the opposition. Such ridiculous claims even don't merit a response. The state of Punjab voted for two people - Arvind Kejriwal and Bhagwant Mann. The state of Punjab wants that both these people should make Punjab prosperous and 'khushal' again.
All, I can say is that the opposition should try to find fault in the governance and in the policies, and not getting into these petty irrelevant, inconsequential figment of their imagination.
Q: You have been on the forefront of attacking the corruption. How do you see the present politics Satyendar Jain is in judicial custody, Mamta Banerjee in Bengal facing such situation and Congress is also facing the same situation?
A: Corruption is one thing, but this blatant misuse of state instrumentalities, abuse of organisations like the ED, the CBI to serve the BJP's political purposes has today crossed all limits. It is so brazen that if you have to pull out the records of the ED, you would find that in the last five years, they have not registered even a single non political case.
There has not been a single political conviction. The whole idea of the BJP is to book people under fabricated charges, file the case and blackmail them. I strongly condemn that.
Q: BJP has brute majority in the Lower House, but in Upper House, they don't have majority. How will you make pressure on them?
A: It is the responsibility of the BJP to ensure that House runs properly and debate, dialogue and discussion happens in the House.