New Delhi: The battle for East Delhi is turning into one of the most keenly watched contests in the national capital.
As Delhi gets set to vote in the sixth phase on May 12, News18 spoke to cricketer-turned-politician Gautam Gambhir, the BJP candidate from East Delhi.
In an exclusive interview, the member of India’s 2011 Cricket World Cup team addressed allegations levelled against him by his Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) rival Atishi that he had two voter ID cards, responded to her challenge for an open debate and laid out his own vision for the constituency.
Let’s first clear this out. Do you have one voter ID or two, as claimed by your opponent?
I have only one voter ID and I’ve only voted for one constituency — Rajinder Nagar. I used to live in Ramjas Road, where my grandparents lived. I was brought up there, but I never applied for any voter ID (there), I never voted in that constituency.
Your opponent, AAP’s Atishi Marlena has challenged you to an open debate on the issues facing East Delhi and where you stand. Why not accept the challenge?
See, I don’t believe in debates and dharnas. I believe in going to the people and telling them about our vision, and try and make them connect with our vision. In the last four-and-a-half years, there’s only been debates in Delhi and I think people are tired of it. Every time you have nothing to deliver, come on TV and have a debate. Debates will take you nowhere, but going on the ground will. What is happening on the ground is the right answer to every debate. Debating over every issue doesn’t take the country or the individual forward.
So can we say it isn’t likely that we’ll see the two of you debating?
Why would you want that? You would see the development and figure it out yourself. I’m not there to debate, I’m there to work. If people are there to debate, they should may be become anchors or spokespersons. I am there to develop East Delhi constituency, I am there to develop the entire city and hopefully I can do that.
Where do you stand on some of the issues that concern Delhites? Let’s take, for example, the sealing drive. The AAP holds your party, the BJP, responsible for it.
The Union urban development minister and the BJP have worked a lot for the people who are going through the sealing process. Earlier, there used to be only five persons (who were given) 5 Kilowatt of electricity per household. That has been increased to 10 people and 11KW. So they’ve given a lot of relief to the people. We are very serious about it and we have actually worked on it. Hopefully, we will be able to find a permanent solution to it.
The AAP is saying that on the one hand, there is Atishi, who is an academic and an activist, who is considered the brains behind the sweeping changes in education in Delhi. It says that while you are a star, you have no legislative or executive experience. Why should an East Delhi voter support you?
The first thing is honesty. The second thing is if you come in with the right intent, everything will fall in place. AAP talks about education, but I judge education (on the quality) of the product that comes out of that school. It is not just about camouflaging the entire school and working on just painting the walls or making the infrastructure a little better. It’s about the product. I am from Modern School which is not known for its infrastructure. It is known for what it delivers. The youth who comes out of that school has enough opportunities to achieve his or her dreams. If that’s not the case, you are only trying to take political mileage out of that education system. Unfortunately, (the quality of) teachers in our education system and the product that comes out of it have remained exactly the same as it used to be years ago.
The BJP had supported full statehood in the past. Why not come out this year and say you support the demand?
I’m sure that must be in the manifesto, but that hasn’t stopped development from taking place in the past. I never heard statehood being such a big issue. Development happened before also, before the AAP was in power. Suddenly, statehood has become important, because it has not been able to deliver on all the big things it had promised. Hence, hiding behind statehood.
Between AAP’s Atishi and Congress’ Arvinder Singh Lovely, who is your biggest challenge?
Our promise to deliver our vision is our biggest challenge. We will not make any false promises, we will only promise what we can deliver.