Pragya Kaushika: There was a recent controversy regarding your remarks on full statehood. Are you for complete statehood for Delhi or do you think it should be conditional?
As soon as I became the Delhi state president, Kejriwalji attacked me personally twice and on both occasions, his comments had no basis. He first showed a supposed retweet of mine, from some fake ID, to show that I abuse women. I have been in public life for 20 years and Kejriwalji needs to study the depth of Manoj Tiwari’s sanskaar (culture). During the 2014 elections, these people themselves created a fake ID and retweeted from that handle. I have a daughter and I believe daughters are greater than sons. On statehood, I had said in an ETV interview that it is in our manifesto and that we are taking it very seriously. The BJP is in favour of full statehood but Kejriwal became the roadblock when he opposed the Republic Day parade. I believe that every person in this country took that as a threat. Although Article 239 AA of the Indian Constitution defines Delhi’s statehood, I only said that if someone calls himself an anarchist and says that he can stop the Republic Day parade, then the provisions of the Act should be reviewed. I neither said there shouldn’t be full statehood, nor did I say there should be. I said that it is in our manifesto and needs to be reviewed.
Pragya Kaushika: Have you talked to the central leadership of your party about reviewing it?
Yes, they also stated that I’ve said the right thing. This is the first time after becoming CM that Arvind Kejriwal has lost a Twitter war. I didn’t know that within five days of my becoming a chief, Arvind Kejriwal would suffer a defeat, that too on Twitter. He has a (publicity) budget of R526 crore whereas I have no budget right now. It is a reality check for him and shows that he has fallen in the eyes of the public and that people aren’t trusting him.
Abantika Ghosh: The BJP won big in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections but in the Delhi Assembly polls, it was down to three seats. People, including those in the BJP, say that one of the reasons was Kiran Bedi being chosen as the CM candidate. You’re the Delhi unit chief right now and you yourself have said that you wanted to contest from Bihar but fought and won in Delhi. Is the BJP facing a dearth of leaders in Delhi?
There can never be a dearth of leaders in Delhi; there are several leaders and several experienced people here. It sometimes happens that you don’t get space to contest from where you want; so I got a place here. I’m proud of the work I have done in the last three years after joining the Delhi BJP because it’s the first time that a celebrity has become the party’s state unit president. My hard work must have prompted my party leadership to think that I’m doing good work and hence should be rewarded.
Pragya Kaushika: How are you going to fight the ‘outsider’ tag?
This ‘outsider’ term is a gift from people who are scared of me, and who have to go to Google looking for a single weakness of Manoj Tiwari. Delhi is the capital of the country and how can anyone be an outsider in the capital. If someone says that, it’s an indication that they’re very afraid of my entry into the political scene.
Pragya Kaushika: The Delhi BJP has done a lot of programmes on demonetisation. What are the problems being faced in the capital?
I’m part of the party that is in power at the Centre and so those who may have a lot of money may not share their problems with me. People are hopeful that this discomfort will lead to future happiness. Some people are saying that this country has been lining up for many years. People who live in Mumbai and take local trains face long queues every day. That is never an issue. People are facing issues because the number of bank branches may not be sufficient. Even then they are not revolting. This shows that people are waiting for the next budget; it will be the budget of India’s happiness. But Kejriwal and Mamata Banerjee are trying to incite people; the Congress is stalling Parliament. When people died in a train accident recently, they did not listen to the Railway minister’s condolence message.
Anant Goenka: Do you think that the BJP’s relationship with Arvind Kejriwal will improve?
I am not hopeful that the relationship will improve because he believes in a hit-and-run policy. He does not want to clarify anything he says. I don’t think there is any scope of relations improving with him.
Anant Goenka: So it will never be a functional relationship?
There are more reasons for this. Delhi’s CM is never in Delhi and is a CM without portfolio. Delhi gave them 67 seats and now we have to check who the CM of Delhi is. When he (Arvind Kejriwal) speaks, it’s as if he has been dreaming of Narendra Modi. There are no plans for a pollution-free Delhi or the betterment of unauthorised colonies. Nothing has been done in these areas. Delhi has been cheated by politics of unauthorised colonies and time has come to fulfil those promises.
Pragya Kaushika: Kejriwal has said that the anti-corruption bureau (ACB) was with his government but the PM sent paramilitary forces and took over. What do you have to say to that?
The law is meant to be obeyed. Whether you get 67 seats or not, you cannot go against the Constitution. If you did not want to obey the Constitution or if you have not read its provisions with respect to Delhi’s status, then you should have contested elections in Uttar Pradesh and become CM there. Arvind Kejriwal is not a law-abiding person.
Pragya Kaushika: Your constituency, Northeast Delhi, has several unauthorised colonies, which your party had promised to regularise. Now that the BJP is in power at the Centre and controls the municipal corporations, have you made any headway? Have you discussed this with your Central leadership?
As I said, even if we (BJP and Delhi government) don’t share a great relationship, there should at least be a working culture. This (regularisation) is the Delhi government’s work. If the Centre gets involved, they will again cry foul. We have been telling them to not indulge in lies, cheating and propaganda. We tell them, ‘You have already been elected, you give us a proposal on what you have done so far on unauthorised colonies and what help you want from us. We want to know what you have done for a pollution-free Delhi and how we can help. When he started odd-even, I was the first person to support it. (Deputy CM) Manish Sisodia had once gone to a school and caught somebody indulging in corruption—I was the first MP to support it. We are ready to support good work but you are not ready to take our support because you do not want to work. We will conduct a reality check of your 70 promises.
Mayura Janwalkar: Since you are heading Delhi, have you identified some sectors where the Delhi government is falling short and where you think they should focus more?
The first issue is the safety of women. Then purity of drinking water. People come to us with a glass of water and show us how dirty it is. I also get abused for this. There are places where there is leakage in sewer lines and drinking water gets contaminated. I am not saying they have done nothing but let them call us and tell us what have they done. In the next 10 days, tell us how many CCTV cameras you have installed, what steps you have taken to ensure safe drinking water, what have you done about the corruption cases we had raised… Manish Sisodia has 63 people working for him and he says I have no money to give salaries. But the Deputy CM cannot have more than 25 people working for him, then how did he appoint 63? They should answer these questions in the next 10 days.
Mayura Janwalkar: During the Assembly elections, the BJP’s campaign was considered negative. What will your strategy be for the MCD polls?
AAP makes ranneeti (game plan) and I am against rann (battle); I am a believer of karyaneeti (work plan). As I said, in the next 10 days, we will do a reality check of the government’s work so far. We went to a Valmiki Basti yesterday, we will go to the rural belt next, then we will meet the Vaishya community. We may have made mistakes too in the past. But now, we are foot soldiers of Narendra Modi and are making a serious attack on corruption.
Pragya Kaushika: In the past, there has been infighting in the Delhi BJP. How will you handle it?
The day I was taking up the post, various MPs, the past president, and Central Minister Vijay Goel had all said that people are attempting to create confusion by claiming that there is a rift in the Delhi BJP. The truth is that we stand together. I have initiated talks with all Delhi MPs. I don’t know what my future holds but I will work with simplicity. Delhi is the capital and face of India; it deserves all kinds of facilities.
Pragya Kaushika: BJP MPs complain that the Delhi CM and deputy CM never interact with them. Have you faced this?
Recently there was a wedding in the Noida district magistrate’s family and I greeted Sisodiaji. We both spoke and I requested his help on some work for the people. He had said that he would meet me in a week but by then, my post changed and I became Delhi BJP president.
Sweta Dutta: On corruption, Kejriwal says that the ACB is with the Centre and that the Jan Lokpal is stuck. If you were the CM and you did not have the Delhi Police, the ACB and even the MCD (now with the BJP) under you, how would you work?
During Atalji’s tenure, we had a Congress government in Delhi. And I flip the pages of newspapers every day. Back then, I never read of any sort of war between the Centre and the Delhi government. They all knew their limitations. Any person should know his/her limitation.
Sweta Dutta: AAP has been working on education and health. For instance, it has started mohalla clinics and parent-teacher meetings in schools.
The mohalla clinics will soon become the biggest comic episode. In villages, a compounder sits in a room and a jhola chaap doctor visits. Are you trying to get the same jhola chaap doctor for Delhi, India’s capital. As for mohalla clinics, only 10-11 are operational and there is corruption there. The clinic is in some MLA’s house or in the house of some AAP functionary. They’re getting more rent. The motto is not to give medicines but to get rent out of it. And very soon, I will make you aware of this.
Sarah Hafeez: Do you think the MLAs of Delhi are being falsely targeted by the police? Will it impact your campaign (for the MCD elections)?
The Delhi Police is an able-bodied force. You should not even suggest this. Look at the fake degree case, where a judgment took place and it was proved. In such a case, the responsibility that Arvind Kejriwal had taken on behalf of his MLAs, about their character, was proved to be false. And this has nothing to do with my campaign; It is not an issue. If you do wrong, you will go to prison.
Naveed Iqbal: How will you counter anti-incumbency? And despite being in the MCD for 10 years, Delhi’s Swachh Bharat ranking, started by the NDA government, is 398. Have you also started campaigning? The Congress has already gone door-to-door.
We have taken action. Demonetisation is against whom? Corrupt officials and politicians. The Congress is opposing it. They and AAP have been exposed. They want to protect the corrupt. We have stated clearly that due to demonetisation, those in the MCD who were progressing due to corruption are now in the dock.
Naveed Iqbal: Apart from this, it will be important to tell (people) what you did in 10 years. Do you have a strategy for that?
The MCD has done a lot of work under unfavourable conditions. You must have heard our Mayor say this every now and then that they are stopping our budget. The motto of Arvind Kejriwal’s party is don’t give Delhi enough budget so that their work does not show. Despite this, we will ask people to remember the work the MCD has done and compare it with the work that the Delhi government has done in two years. Things will be clear.
Rakesh Sinha: Are there political leaders outside of the BJP whose work you admire?
I like Nitishji’s (Bihar CM Nitish Kumar) work. I like some of his decisions but not the one to go with Laluji. He (Nitish) probably has some good in him and my belief has only been strengthened because he has supported demonetisation. I like Naveen Patnaikji because no doubt he has done a lot of work in Odisha. I like Jayalalithaaji. She is no longer with us. I used to like Mamata didi too before demonetisation. I liked her simplicity, her worry for the poor but after the Saradha incident, I had a slight change of heart. And now after demonetisation, I cannot say that I like her.
Sweta Dutta: Will you speak about Poorvanchali votes? AAP has 12 MLAs who are Poorvanchalis.
I don’t want to look at Delhi in a divided manner. As soon as you start dividing, I feel that that is when Delhi’s regression starts. Please don’t divide Delhi into Poorvanchali, Uttaranchali, Himachali. Delhi is a family of 200 crore people. And all of us have to work together for it. To understand the people’s issues is key to winning Delhi.