Delhi education and urban development minister Manish Sisodia defends sting operations as a tool to fight corruption even as he counters charges of vigilantism, regionalism and being anti any party. This Idea Exchange session was moderated by Apurva of The Indian Express
Apurva: Manish Sisodia started off as a television producer, moved to the NGO sector, joined a movement that stopped Delhi for a while, and now he’s a minister. What has the transition been like?
I used to read Premchand, imbibing the pain inherent in his works. I left my village years ago, came to Delhi and worked for Times FM. I was a popular radio jockey. Once, a literary personality asked me, ‘What do you do?’. I thought to myself, ‘He doesn’t know that I am a star’. He asked me again, ‘What else do you do?’. For the first time, I realised that there’s a world beyond FM radio. This prompted me to do a course in journalism. As a journalist, we observe things that are not right, but don’t have solutions for it. The search for solutions took me to people like Anna Hazare, Arvind Kejriwal, Aruna Roy, who were working for society. I left journalism in 2005. While using the Right to Information Act, we felt that something more was required. Arvind and I studied several models of decentralisation. A number of RTI activists were murdered, forcing us to think about protection for whistleblowers. We then moved towards the need for a Lokpal Bill. There was a Bill lying with Parliament. We studied that and drafted our own. The movement headed forward; a party was formed. But there is no one point where we can say that we started thinking in a certain way.
Dilip Bobb: How do you rate your first few weeks in the government?
Whatever we could do in the first 15 days, we have done our best.
Apurva: The common charge is that the government has been moving too fast.
In many things, it is too late. For instance, on corruption, if we don’t take decisions fast, it will lead to more corruption.
Abantika Ghosh: Do you think a lot of your announcements have been impulsive? You say there will be a 50% reduction in power bills; then you say, no, we will have to discuss it. You started off with Jan Sunwai and then said, we can’t continue with it. Are you still in the movement mode?