PMO Decides Poll Dates, Not EC; And Modi is Very Vindictive: Kejriwal
If he (Modi) decides to take on someone, he doesn’t stop. He is vindictive, very vindictive.
Arvind Kejriwal is on a whirlwind tour of Punjab, a week before the state goes to polls. Of course, he believes there is a wave in the making, a la Delhi, and his Aam Aadmi Party will sweep Punjab on February 4. It is a people’s poll and the opponents are drugs and corruption, he says, adding that he is disappointed by the Election Commission censure. News18’s Rupashree Nanda caught up with him during his Punjab tour. Excerpts from an exclusive interview:
News18: Rahul Gandhi has said that Captain Amarinder Singh is going to be Congress's CM candidate. Don't you think that coming clear on the CM candidate will energize the Congress, and the party will be able to consolidate under Amarinder?
AK: What was the need for the Congress that just before a few days before elections, it had to declare Captain Amarinder Singh as CM candidate? What has happened that Congress had to announce CM candidate? The reason is Congress is losing very badly so they thought that if the declare a CM candidate, their chances will improve. But people of Punjab have made up their mind. Forget about declaring Captain as CM candidate, if they declare him as PM candidate also, nothing will change. Even God cannot save the Congress. No one can save the Congress. Today, you saw at the road show Captain Saab is losing from his own constituency: What CM, which CM? (Kahan ke CM, kaise CM?) Captain is losing from Patiala and from Lambi, and losing badly. There will be no gains from this.
News18You are a political opponent and of course you will say that Captain is losing. But he is not expected to lose from Patiala…
AK: No. The people are saying that. You were there, you spoke with people,
News18But Patiala is Captain's home turf…
AK: It was, not any more. This time people want change, everybody wants change: change from Congress-Akali-BJP, change from the existing political system that has pushed Punjab into drugs.
Where was Captain when drugs were sold in Punjab? What was the Captain doing for ten years? People say, drugs began to be sold during his time. Three years ago when Bikram Majithia (Punjab minister and deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal’s brother-in-law) was about to be arrested by the CBI, Captain approached Sonia Gandhi to save Majithia. And in return, they took back all the cases against the Captain. People are tired of this. Earlier they did not have a choice, now they do. A neat and clean and good option that has emerged from within the people. People will vote for them.
News18When Captain took on Parkash Singh Badal from Lambi, you said that it was a fixed match because he was trying to divide the anti-incumbency vote. Before that also you said it was a fixed match because he never took on big leaders. How can you have it both ways?
AK: No, no. I am saying if he had to fight really, he should have left Patiala. Bhagwant Mann is fighting from one seat, Jarnail Singh is contesting from one seat but Captain is fighting from Patiala and Lambi also. One newspaper asked him why was he fighting from two seats. He said he is fighting from Patiala to win. So from Lambi he is not fighting to win. He is fighting to make Prakash Singh Badal win. This is something that he has admitted.
News18By declaring Amarinder Singh as CM candidate, has Congress not stolen one of your weapons? Because you always said that Sidhu will be the Congress's CM candidate, that he was promised the chair. So that question has been settled?
AK: Let them steal all our weapons, even then Congress is not going to win. People have made up their minds. People want to move away from this old politics. People want to build a new Punjab, a Punjab of their hopes and dreams. Congress/BJP/Akali Dal are all the same ...same characters, same friendships, they get married amongst each other, they have relationship with each other. Majithia is Captain's nephew. People want to put an end to their politics.
News18What about AAP? The AAP has not declared a CM face in Punjab? Why is it that you have not declared a CM face here when you have done that in Goa?
AK: That will be decided after the elections. All the MLAs will sit together and decide.
News18What is the reason that you have not decided?
AK: Different states have different strategies.
News18We hear four names in contention for chief ministership within AAP: Jarnail Singh, Bhagwant Mann, H S Phoolka and Himmat Singh Shergill…
AK: MLAs will decide.
News18But isn’t it a drawback that seems to have put AAP on backfoot? Aren’t you taking a political risk by not declaring a CM face?
AK: The people are not asking us who will be the CM, only the media is interested, people are happy. We have worked in Delhi with honesty. They want that in Punjab also.
News18In all your speeches you have said that you will stand guarantee for all the manifesto promises that AAP has made. Does this not point to a leadership vacuum in Punjab?
AK: People have faith in me. People believe, "Kejriwal kattar imaandar hai, usko duniya ki koi bhi taakat khareed nahi sakti” (Kejriwal is staunchly honest, no power can buy him off). And there is a second factor. People believe, “Jo woh kehta hai, woh karta hai, apni baat as mukar nahi jaata, jhoot nahi bolta hai” (He walks the talk, he doesn’t lie). That is why I am the guarantor of our manifesto promises.
News18Why not project one strong face in Punjab?
AK: The party feels it should be decided after the elections. Let the MLAs decide.
News18You have locked horns with the Election Commission. You have again tweeted reacting to EC restraining you from making the statement exhorting voters to accept bribes from anyone but vote only for AAP. Aren’t you attacking an institution ?
AK: I am not attacking any institution. I am reminding them about their responsibility. Everyone in Punjab will acknowledge that money is being distributed. Where is the EC? Is the EC sleeping? Can't they see that money is being distributed? EC is not telling them anything. I am saying whoever comes to distribute the money, take the money from them but vote for us. What is the wrong thing I have said? EC is forbidding me to say that. Does the EC want me to say, “Give your vote to whoever gives you money?”. EC has joined hands with these parties. Let EC point out what is wrong in what I have said. I have said, "Paise donon partiyon se lena lekin vote hamein dena". We did that in Delhi. People took money from BJP, Congress but voted for us. If the same thing happens in one or two more elections, parties will stop distributing money. They will feel they are losing their money.
I am doing the work of the EC by finishing off bribery. But by stopping me, EC is encouraging bribery. EC has threatened me: "If you repeat this we will withdraw your symbol.” A van belonging to Akali Dal was caught, EC does not withdraw their symbol... money and liquor is being distributed but their symbols are not withdrawn. And they will withdraw our symbols? EC should do its duty. The way EC is behaving ... they declared elections on the 5th...why? Because Modiji has to speak on the 3rd! So now you will declare elections according to Modiji? Why are elections in Punjab and Goa held on the same day? The entire country knows the reason. Is the EC independent now? EC belongs to the people of this country not to two-three people. If those sitting in that chair will not respect that, people of this country will raise their voice.
News18But you are an elected chief minister. You are expected to be acting according to certain norms?
AK: Tell me what norms have I violated. I have not indulged in any violence. It is my duty to raise my voice against wrong practices within the boundaries of the Constitution. If any wrong is being done, I will raise my voice.
News18They expect that you should show more respect…
AK:Respect has to be earned. If your deeds don't command respect, how will we respect? When TN Seshan was there, when JM Lyngdoh was there, everyone respected them. Now no one respects the EC.
News18You are casting very strong aspersions against the EC…
AK: I have been saying this for the past ten days. This is not the first time. Don't you see that the date announcement was not correct? They did the same thing in Delhi also. On 10th January, Modiji had to address a rally in Ramlila Maidan… And then EC declared dates... so now the Election Commission will decide poll dates according to the schedule of Modiji's speeches? Is this the independence of the Election Commission? That means dates are being decided by PMO, not the EC.
News18Punjab deputy CM Sukhbir Badal has targeted you on two counts: by saying that you are from outside and that you have links with extremists.
AK: Sukhbir Badal says all the NRIs who are coming into the state (to campaign for AAP) all of them are extremists. How can that be? When planeloads of NRIs had arrived, he said that they are bringing extremists. Are all Punjabi NRIs extremists? All of them left Punjab due to compulsions, because Badals and Captain together had destroyed Punjab so much that they did not have an option. Now they are coming back to help Punjab progress and they are being called extremists? This is shameful!
News18Captain Amarinder Singh has called you a sneaky little fellow, a slimy little fellow...
AK:Let him say that. Doesn’t affect me, one should respect elders even if they abuse you (Buzurg hain toh gaali dete hai toh namashkar, koi baat nahi.)
News18There are reports that the Hindu vote is consolidating under Congress. Does that worry you?
AK: No, that is not true. I don't know who has told you that Congress is consolidating… Media gives more space to the Congress, media gives us very little space. Amongst the people, there is no Congress.
News18You are absolutely sure that there is no threat for AAP from the Congress in Punjab?
AK: Please understand this: Our fight is not against the Congress, our fight is that of the people against corruption and drugs. People are seeing a new ray of hope in AAP. Understand one thing: in Punjab, this election has gone out of the hands of parties and politicians, whether it be Kejriwal, Captain or the Badals or Bhagwant Mann. This election is being fought by the people (yeh kejriwal ki pahunch se, Captain ki pahunch se, Badalon ki pahunch se, Bhagwant Mann ki pahunch se bahar hai, yeh chunav ab janta ladh rahi hai).
News18Your party has had a bumpy ride in Punjab, isn't it? You had to suspend two MPs, you had to suspend Succha Singh Chhotepur. Looking back, do you think it had a negative impact on people? The rise became tougher for you, to rebuild the image and establish hope in the minds of people?
AK: There are ups and downs.
News18Would you have wanted things to be different?
AK: Maybe some things could have been done differently. I cannot comment on individual incidents now.
News18In case there is a hung assembly, would you support or take the support of any party?
AK: Which report is saying this?
News18There are some reports. Some opinion polls…
News18I cannot remember exactly which report…
AK: Well, they are false. You also know.
News18There seems to be a wave for AAP in the Malwa region. But what about Majha?
AK: It is not a wave for AAP... it is a wave for hope. Please try and understand that. That hope is very strong. Like you asked, can Congress consolidate in one week? Is the Congress ‘hope’? No. This is an election of hope. People have made up their minds. It cannot be reversed now. In such an election of hope (umeed ki chunav) people give decisive verdicts: either for Congress or for AAP.
News18But just in case there is a hung assembly?
AK: It is a theoretical question
News18So you definitely don't want to commit now?
AK:No, no. I am committing. There will be no understanding with any party. But I am saying the question is theoretical. There is no question of any gathbandhan (alliance).
News18What will be the next step for your party?
AK:People will decide. In the case of Punjab also, people decided. Wherever people want us we will fight from there.
News18Going through your twitter handle, like on Republic day, you said that the PM has asked the CBI to raid your department and seize papers…
AK: They came on 20th January. They took away all the files of our feedback unit. Tell me, is this a Republic? Is this federal structure? Every single day, CBI takes away files from one of our departments. Why is Modiji so negative? Why is he after us?
News18You have had an antagonistic relationship with the PM...is there anything positive you see in him?
AK: If he (Modi) decides to take on someone, he doesn’t stop. He is vindictive, very vindictive. (Matlab woh agar thaan liya na: isko chodna nahi, badla lena hai, toh chodte nahi usko. Matlab bahut vindictive hain. Bahut zyada vindictive hain)
News18 It's been two years of the Modi government. Can you think of any positive thing Modi has done?
AK:I don’t know. I can't think of anything. Can you suggest something?
News18You are turning the question on me...a question is not the answer.
AK: I can't think of anything positive that he has done in the past two years.
News18Nothing at all?
AK: I can't think of anything.
News18How important is Punjab for you?
AK: Arvind Kejriwal is not important, Aam Aadmi Party is not important. Whatever we are doing, we are doing it for the state, for the country. For us, every part of the country is important. We came into politics out of compulsion, not out of choice. Wherever people want us, we will work hard... that is our duty... the rest is up to God.
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