Interview: Sheila Dikshit on elections, rise of Modi and Kejriwal
The emergence of Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) as a credible contender in the Dec. 4 state election in Delhi has not dampened the Congress party’s confidence, its chief minister Sheila Dikshit said on Tuesday.
Dikshit, 75, who has been chief minister of India’s capital since 1998, spoke to Reuters at her official residence about the upcoming elections, the rise of Kejriwal and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) under Narendra Modi.
Here are the edited excerpts from the interview:
Opinion polls show that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) will eat into your vote share this time. What is your view?
I have nothing to say. All these polls that are being conducted I think are somewhere in the air, they don’t reflect reality because nobody has made up their mind. How do I vote for the Aam Aadmi when I don’t even know what the Aam Aadmi stands for. It has jhadoo (broom) which they say is going to sweep everything away, but what are you going to do? With the Congress, at least you have 15 years of work to show.
What do you have to say about the rise of Kejriwal as a political phenomenon? Do you think his strategy might work or will he just fizzle out?
I would agree with the latter part of what you said; it’s a phenomenon. It might carry on; it may just vanish.
So you don’t think AAP will be able to garner votes and take seats held by the Congress?
I doubt it.
Do you think the BJP poses a bigger threat to the Congress in Delhi this year as compared to 2008?
In 2008, BJP was a more united party, today it is not. In my favour or against us will be the people of Delhi.
In 2014, do you think the anti-incumbency wave is going to hit the Congress nationally?
It’s difficult to say. Let’s see what happens in the state elections. I would definitely say that in these 10 years, the UPA government has been the most economically successful for India’s development. There has never been growth like this.
Given you talk about the last 10 years, the fact is that India’s growth is at a decade low right now.
It’s very bad. It’s very bad everywhere, but it’s going up and down. If you look at the number of cars (in Delhi), these are symptoms of growth. Why would there be 7.5 million to 8 million cars in Delhi if people weren’t able to afford them? Delhi may be something different, but the fact is it’s symptomatic.
What do you have to say about Narendra Modi’s rise?
I don’t want to comment on him.
But generally as a party leader, because the finance minister said Modi has a chequered track record, and another minister said Modi’s bubble will burst before 2014. What do you have to say?
I have nothing to say about his style. But what I do feel perturbed about in politics is the language. You don’t criticize the prime minister. He may be good or bad, it’s your perception. Because it’s the most important position in politics in your country. You go on criticizing a person like Rahul Gandhi who has just about started his political career. I am waiting for him to tell us, what is his programme? Do you have a vision for India? Spell it out.
Do you think the BJP with Modi is a bigger threat to the Congress in 2014?
No, it’s too early to say.
Talking about the Congress, if you were to choose, who would be the prime ministerial candidate in 2014? The BJP has already done it.
When we win the election, then we choose a leader. Let BJP do it, BJP has a style. If BJP was so strong, they should have ruled the country most of the time.
Do you think Rahul Gandhi is ready to take charge?
He will be. He has never said, I want to be the prime minister. He has consistently said, I want to work for the party. If we win the election, the members of parliament will decide.
Are you happy being the chief minister or do you want to take up a senior role in the government?
I am happy doing whatever I am given to do, whatever I have earned, whatever faith people have reposed in me.
But is being the prime minister one day a dream?
Not even in my craziest dreams.
(Editing by Tony Tharakan and Robert MacMillan; Follow Aditya on Twitter at @adityayk, Shashank @shashankchouhan, Tony @tonytharakan and Robert @bobbymacReports. This article is website-exclusive and cannot be reproduced without permission)