Raghav Chadha, Delhi MLA and Punjab co-incharge of Aam Aadmi Party. (File)
Delhi MLA and Punjab co-incharge of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Raghav Chadha, says that the party is looking for a Chief Ministerial candidate for Punjab who puts the state before himself, especially in the present prevailing political circumstances. In a detailed chat with The Indian Express, the AAP leader shares the roadmap of the party for the 2022 Assembly polls.
How different is the political atmosphere for AAP in Punjab going into the 2022 assembly polls as compared to the 2017 polls?
In 2017 AAP was beginning its journey in Punjab. We are wiser, more mature, now we understand much better the dirty politics and the politics of collusion that both, the Akalis and the Congress play. We have also learnt how to make Punjab prosperous. We have gained valuable experience on how to create a ‘Khushhaal Punjab’.
In that case, this time around ,what are the focus areas on which you are going to approach the voters?
The party will start unveiling its campaign very soon. A detailed manifesto will also contain the main promises which we will make with the people of Punjab. As already indicated by (party convenor and Delhi chief minister) Mr (Arvind) Kejriwal at the political rally in Bagha Purana, one of the key issues is going to be electricity promise. You have a situation in Punjab where you do not get electricity, the supply is erratic and you get regular and exorbitant bills. The condition is similar to what was in 2013 in Delhi when AAP came to power there. Within a few weeks the AAP government was able to transform the power sector and now we are giving electricity 24X7 and free of cost.
In 2017 there had been concerns over the direction that the party was taking with regard to hardliner elements in the state in run up to the elections. What is being done to allay those concerns?
If there have been certain concerns then the AAP will address those. If there have been certain misconceptions, then those will also be addressed and dealt with. AAP stands for prosperity of Punjab. As somebody who has been a founding member of the party and who has been integral part of the party from prior to when it was formed, I can tell you that AAP stands for prosperity, peace and harmony. It will forever be our endeavour to promote brotherhood, peace and communal harmony in the country and Punjab.
You have been spending lot of time in the state now. What is your perception of the 2022 polls?
One thing consistent across Punjab is that people stand disenchanted with the Akalis and the Congress. They actually do not consider them as two separate parties. They consider them as one force and that these two work in cahoots with each other and they have colluded to loot and rob Punjab. They look at AAP as an alternative which gives them a ray of hope. Even people who have been sceptical of AAP say that we have tried other parties and now we will go for AAP. These are the things I listen to when I travel the length and breadth of Punjab.
So will this support you see translate into good candidates for the party? Have you started looking for better quality candidates?
Candidate selection is a process which will commence and conclude closer to the elections. We are still seven to eight months away. However, as far as organisation building is concerned, a very robust organisation has been built over last few months. I do not only mean state, district and halka incharges.
I mean even in villages. Now I can pick up any village and say that I have robust organisation there with 100 members, 80 active workers etc. From an organisational standpoint we are now at a position to outdo and outmatch any political party in Punjab.
The biggest question on minds of people of Punjab is that who will be the Chief Ministerial candidate of AAP? Can you answer that?
Elections are fought on campaigns, promises and credibility. Every political party has its own strategy. Last elections, the strategy was to not announce a candidate. We had a presidium of leaders. We still have a presidium of leaders but the strategy has been revised and we will announce a CM face. Baraat bhi dikhayenge, Dulha bhi dikhayenge aur Dulha dikha kar chunaav ladenge. The single most important criteria when one looks at the future CM is that the individual has to give precedence to the prosperity of Punjab and not to his or her personal ambition. Someone who represents Punjab and somebody who will dedicate himself to welfare of Punjab.
What is your take on the recent desertions from AAP wherein several leaders have joined Congress?
I would not want to waste my breath on speaking on opportunists. People who win elections on one party symbol, fight another election on another party symbol and then join yet another party. These people are opportunists and no time should be wasted on them.
Congress government has announced a slew of welfare measures including jobs in government service, pay commission implementation and SC scholarships. The Akalis have joined hands with BSP. Doesn’t it skew the popularity in their favour?
The anti-dalit mindset of the Captain Amarinder Singh-led government stands exposed by the very fact that the Post-matric SC Scholarship scheme, which impacts the lives of two lakh dalit families, was withheld and perhaps illegally routed and a financial scam was orchestrated. AAP legislators had to sit on an indefinite fast to ensure that the government releases the money and we managed to do that yesterday. No level or measure of symbolism can now wash away the sins of the government. As far as representation of dalits is concerned, the Leader of Opposition in AAP is a dalit, the Deputy Leader of Opposition is a dalit and a woman. These are the only two positions that a political party in opposition has constitutionally. On the other hand you have the Akalis, who by their own acknowledgement, are lacking support among the dalit community and had to borrow support of a dalit party. This is the state in Punjab where one party is anti-dalit and other perceives it is not the choice of dalits.
What about representation to women in party and in fighting elections? That is also a major issue as not enough representation is given by political parties to them in Punjab.
Absolutely. That is a very important issue and something very close to my heart as I consider myself a feminist. Our Deputy Leader of Opposition is a woman. The only few women that you see in the Assembly are from AAP. So that has been our endeavour and we will work towards bringing more and more women to state politics.
How do you see the farmers movement impacting the elections?
I do not look at farmers’ agitation from a political prism. This is a clean agitation away from politics. But because the decision makers are members of political parties and so politics does creep in. The way I look at it is that all three parties – BJP, Akalis and Congress – stand discredited in the eyes of the Indian farmer. BJP because they engineered the bills, Congress because Captain sahib is the father of the bill as he was part of the panel which considered the legislation, and Akalis are the mother of bill because their senior leader was member of the cabinet when the legislations were being drafted, cleared and even later. It was only after the farmers protested that she (former Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal) resigned. The only party, which has supported farmers is AAP whether by protests on streets, tearing of bills in Assembly by Arvind Kejriwal or by disrupting the session of Rajya Sabha when the bill was being passed undermining parliamentary practices. We have also helped the farmers in whatever way we could at the Delhi borders with langar, water etc as ‘nishkaam sewa’.
Do you see infighting in Congress as an opportunity?
The ruling party is in a shambles and while other political parties would have wanted to dent the Congress for electoral gains, the party has self destructed itself. There has been a complete organisational collapse in Congress as infighting is not limited to top leadership only but also down the line till the last organisational level. From a Punjab standpoint, there are eight CM aspirants in Congress fighting among themselves, including Captain Amarinder. At a time when they should be fighting against Covid and other ills in society, they are fighting among themselves. It is a very sad state of affairs. The lust for power has made these eight claimants blind.
Are doors still open for Navjot Singh Sidhu?
…The door is open or not can only be answered if the person is standing at the door. If he is at the door then I will answer that question. First you confirm if he is at the door or not.