At the latest edition of Express Adda, held last week at Olive Bar & Kitchen, Mumbai, in association...
At the latest edition of Express Adda, held last week at Olive Bar & Kitchen, Mumbai, in association with IIFL Private Wealth Management, former Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal spoke about his 49-day experience as CM, activism versus politics, why he chose to contest against Narendra Modi from Varanasi, internal democracy in his party, and his ambitious plan for Delhi if his party returns to power. The session was moderated by Seema Chishti, Deputy Editor, The Indian Express.
On his experience as CM
It was short-lived, only 49 days, but it was quite an experience. Even our severest critics admit that what we achieved in those 49 days, no government post-independence, has achieved in their first 50 days. We reduced electricity tariff for up to 400 units by half; we made water free up to 20,000 litres a month for a family. People criticised us for that. They said we were doling out subsidies. The total amount I spent on these two subsidies was just R250 crore, while the budget of the Delhi government is R4,000 crore. So the subsidy was peanuts. We ordered a CAG audit into electricity companies as there are a large number of allegations against these companies. The Congress was not doing it, the BJP was not doing it, and both were citing a pending High Court case as the reason. When I became the chief minister, I asked for the files and found that there was a High Court case pending, but no stay order.
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We brought down bribery in Delhi to almost negligible levels. The police and MCD officials had stopped taking bribes in our days.
I am trying to say that though we have been talking about corruption, the proof of the pudding lies in the eating. The 49 days of our governance showed that if you provide development without corruption, it leads to the development of all.
He quit, why should Delhi vote for him again?
We could show good governance in 49 days but we kept saying we were entering the government for changes in the system, so that even if there was another government, it would be unable to dislodge the system. Systemic changes can only be undertaken when we are in the Assembly. The Congress said they were supporting us from outside, but inside, they broke mikes and tore papers. And they decided they would not allow any proposal to be passed. That is the time we decided to resign.
We knew that the popularity of the government was at its peak at that time. We were expecting the Delhi Assembly elections to be held along with the Lok Sabha polls. We expected to get 50 seats, and form the government without the support of Congress, so as to implement systemic changes such as Lokpal and Swaraj, which we had spoken about. And then we would be able to be the government we wanted to.
But this was a huge political mistake. We did not anticipate that the Centre would impose President’s Rule in Delhi for the next 10 months, and not let elections take place. People of Delhi got angry as we did not consult them through a referendum, like we did before forming the government. We should have asked the people. The one lesson I have learnt is that I will never resign. Bharat ki politics mein jo bhi ho jaye, kabhi isteefa nahin dena chahiye!
People say the BJP has taken the broom from us. They have learnt a lot from us, like our “missed call” membership campaign. We wore a white cap, so they started wearing a saffron cap. It’s good. We want to change the political discourse. However, people say there is no originality in imitation.
On dissent within the party
First and foremost, ever since the party has been formed, only Shazia Ilmi has quit. We tried to pacify her but she doesn’t want to come back. Yogendra Yadav’s emails were very important. Internal democracy is when everyone has the right to dissent on internal platforms. I took it in the right spirit. If someone writes this kind of an email to Narendra Modi, he won’t last in the party. Or if someone writes to Sonia Gandhi, for that matter. Yogendra had written in private but someone leaked it. Shanti Bhushan had written an open letter, but we still respect him a lot, hum ne unhe margdarshak mandal mein nahi daala (smiles).