Arvind Kejriwal talks reforms, with focus on youth

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Mumbai | Updated: November 16, 2014 8:39 AM

Promises to overhaul higher education, reduce VAT, make Delhi fully WiFi

Arvind Kejriwal at Express Adda in Mumbai. Express photo: Pradip DasArvind Kejriwal at Express Adda in Mumbai. Express photo: Pradip Das

Making a second bid for people’s mandate to govern Delhi, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) chief and former Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal promised an overhaul of higher education in the capital with 20 new colleges, incubation services for budding entrepreneurs, subsidised education loans and more.

Kejriwal, who was the guest at The Indian Express event, Express Adda, in Mumbai on Friday evening, appeared to be moving towards a more broad-based politics from his anti-corruption platform, detailing a variety of plans he had for the capital, ranging from making it India’s first fully WiFi city to reducing value-added tax (VAT) drastically.

His Delhi Dialogues, a collaborative effort to draft policies for Delhi that will form the core of AAP’s re-election campaign, would focus specifically on youth, he said. On his plans for the education sector, Kejriwal said if his party wins the coming election to the Delhi Assembly, his government would set up 20 new colleges on the outskirts of the city, with a curriculum focused on skills and entrepreneurship. Students in these colleges would get access to their incubation centres for two years, to test and run an enterprise.  Kejriwal also said government underwriting of student loans was an idea to explore.

“In five years we will make education in government schools of such good quality that even rich parents will want to send their children to these schools,” he said. On his youth policy, he said a crackdown on the drug mafia was critical to ensure Delhi does not go the Punjab way.

On his other plans for Delhi, he promised to bring down VAT to among the lowest in India. This will encourage trade and jobs, he reasoned. For women’s security in Delhi, Kejriwal proposed a connected CCTV coverage throughout the city.

Kejriwal said his biggest political lesson in the past few years had been “to never give one’s resignation”.

To questions on whether AAP was capable of handling power effectively, he said, “I admit people are unhappy that we resigned. But it was a mistake, not a crime. Koi gunaah nahi kiya.” He said he was seeking a fresh chance from the people of Delhi, who, he said, he should have consulted before stepping down as chief minister after 49 days in government.

An organisational restructuring and strengthening was also underway in AAP, he said, through Mission Vistaar. While the decision to spread themselves thin to contest the Lok Sabha elections had been a mistake, he said the party was buoyed by the fact that its vote share in Delhi had risen. “The Assembly election is different. It will be a seedhi takkar between the BJP and us,” he said.

Asked how it felt that the broom, his party symbol, had been co-opted in the Modi campaign for cleanliness, Kejriwal said he believed several other ideas from the AAP stable had been mimicked by the other parties, including the BJP. He cited the missed-call-for-membership, the cap and the broom as ideas the BJP had copied.

He also spoke on Modi and the NDA government, charging the Modi regime with not doing enough to reduce corruption. “Their  campaign themes had been against corruption and price rise, but tell me one area where corruption has fallen since the new government took charge,” he said. “Potatoes were R10 a kilo when AAP was in office in Delhi. They are now R40 a kg.”  He also said the Modi regime was paying lip service to the ideal of anti-corruption, having made Yeddyurappa BJP vice-president.

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