Kejriwal Weaves in Local Issues into Delhi's Statehood Narrative as He Addresses Rallies One After the Other
Though he touches on other issues, including corruption, that helped him come to power four years ago, Kejriwal quickly moves on to his favourite topic at the moment — Delhi’s statehood and Centre’s interference .
File photo of AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal.
New Delhi: Even as Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) chief Arvind Kejriwal continued to push for an alliance with the Congress in Delhi, Haryana and Chandigarh, he has announced names of seven candidates for the seven Lok Sabha seats in Delhi.
And, since March 23, he has addressed multiple meetings, sometimes, speaking at three gatherings in an evening.
Lasting for about 20 minutes, these are classic Kejriwal speeches in the ‘aam aadmi' language, rustling up an argument for full statehood for Delhi and tapping into the perceived neglect of the national capital by the Centre.
Away from the raging debates on nationalism and welfare schemes for the poor, the Delhi chief minister is travelling across the streets of the capital as he weaves local issues into the narrative of statehood for Delhi.
News18 takes a close look at Kejriwal’s pitch as he woos voters in Kalkaji where a young chartered accountant is making his electoral debut on an AAP ticket.
As dusk gathers and the approximately 1,500-odd chairs get filled up in the narrow lane near Nehru camp in the South Delhi constituency, Kejriwal reaches the venue nearly an hour behind schedule.
Without wasting another minute, he starts with a ‘Bharat mata ki jai’, ‘Inquilab Zindabad and ‘Vande Matram’, chants that have been part of his dialect since he entered politics, but more strident now, given the perceived monopoly on nationalism, the biggest election plank of his arch rival, the BJP.
Urging voters to record his speech and share them among acquaintances, Kejriwal seeks vindication of his government’s performance on health and education fronts.
He says whenever citizens visit a hospital where everything, including tests, medicines, treatments and surgeries, are free, they are at a Delhi government hospital, unlike the ones promoted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi where every single thing is chargeable.
Taking on Congress leader and former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dixit, who has been stringently opposing her party’s alliance with the AAP, Kejriwal says, “For 15 years, electricity bills of citizens continued to rise. Even I had protested against this and sat on a hunger stir for 15 days. But, now, Delhi gets uninterrupted electricity at the cheapest rate across the country.”
While stressing on the AAP government’s works like laying water and sewer lines across the state, he takes a jibe at the number of flyovers built during Dixit’s rule. He says, “What would flyovers do, if the nearby street is full of potholes?”
Though he touches on the issue of corruption that helped him come to power four years ago, Kejriwal quickly moves on to his favourite topic at the moment — Centre’s interference and Delhi’s statehood.
He says, “I keep fighting for your rights because Modi keeps stopping us from building more schools, hospitals and mohalla clinics,” and fervently urges his audience to not bring the BJP government at the Centre.
Regarding statehood, he says every political party has betrayed and neglected the cause of Delhi, and the capital’s chief minister is powerless as he has to seek the Centre’s permission for every little thing.
“While a small state like Goa with 14 lakh population gets central funds worth Rs 30,000 crore, Delhi, which pays the largest amount of tax, gets Rs 325 crore? Why bleed Delhi like this? First, it was the British and then, the Union government, who seems to be worse than the colonisers.”
“Despite not getting a pie from Centre, we have done so much work for Delhi. Imagine if we were given the desired amount, how much we could have achieved,” he says.
Until Delhi becomes a full state, we cannot even ensure women’s safety because the Delhi Police is only accountable to the Prime Minister, who is never available, he says.
He then promises 85% reservation for local students in Delhi colleges, setting up of new institutions so that those with 60% marks can also get admissions.
“Why do students with even 90% marks are unable to get a seat in a Delhi college? I am not against students from other states, but locals should their due too. I had written to the PM three years ago seeking permission for a new university and 50 colleges, but nothing has happened in this regard.”
He then also promises to introduce reservations in jobs for locals, stating that at present, there are about two lakh vacancies in Delhi government, but the chief minister is unable to do anything about it as he doesn’t have the required power.
In an apparent dig at Modi’s education, Kejriwal says, “I am an educated man and don’t show fake certificates. Whatever I had promised, I have done.”
In a message to Modi’s supporters, he says, “Despite all his promises, people got only demonetisation, GST and communal unrest. Please don’t fall into the BJP’s trap again.”
“In the prevailing situation, no party is likely to get a full majority. No one knows who would be the next prime minister. If any party falls short, Delhi can provide use its seven seats and in turn, seek support for full statehood.”
“Modiji had promised full statehood for Delhi in return for the seven seats here in Ramlila Maidan in 2014. In 2004 and 2009, Congress too had promised the same. It was in power both at the Centre and state, but still did nothing,” he says, adding that Telangana Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu and his Bengal counterpart Mamata Banerjee have promised to support him in his fight for Delhi.
Not wasting a moment, he moves on to address another set of audience at another ‘gully’, but with a similar content.
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