Uncompromising Kejriwal won’t support any party if Delhi gets hung assembly

October 29, 2013

(This article is website-exclusive and cannot be reproduced without permission)

The Aam Aadmi Party has up-ended the calculations of the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party in the race for control of New Delhi in one of five state assembly elections later this year.

Party leader Arvind Kejriwal is an uncompromising anti-corruption crusader who has tapped into a vein of urban anger after a string of breathtaking graft scandals.

(Click here for main story)

Reuters spoke to Kejriwal at his New Delhi office about the state assembly election in December and his plans to root out corruption. Here are edited excerpts from the interview.

Are you confident of winning?

You see we were always fighting for winning. But (in) between we weren’t sure, frankly. Just like when Anna (Hazare’s anti-corruption) movement started, at that time before the movement, we had absolutely no clue that it will become so big … sense that I am getting now, is exactly the same sense, the same pulse of the people. The excitement in the people is much more than what it was during Anna’s movement.

People ask how can you remove corruption? You don’t have a magic wand.

Many things need to be done. Four immediate steps I can enumerate.

On corruption?

On corruption. First is, obviously Jan Lokpal Bill, which will create a very strong deterrence. That if you indulge in corruption, you will be punished. Swiftness and certainty of punishment will be ensured.

Second is political decentralization. We will pass a law within three months of forming the government that people will gather in their neighbourhood every month and they will take decisions on how government funds should be spent in their neighbourhood … They will take all the decisions and those decisions will be binding on the local politician. He will have to get that implemented.

The third thing is … we plan to simplify this entire taxation system in such a way that people can do business honestly. So the third is you re-overhaul the administrative policies and the structures.

And the fourth is technology. Technology can be a great help in eradicating corruption.

What will happen in case of a hung assembly?
We are not supporting anyone. Because we will cheat the voters. People are going to vote against BJP and against Congress. So if we support any of the two parties, we will be cheating them.

So what will happen?

Re-election.

Do you think a re-election will solve the problem?

Then there will be a landslide victory. Because after re-election, I think people will vote in a different manner.

How do you describe your party’s candidates?

They have to be honest. They have to have a good character and no case of heinous crime pending against them in the courts. These are the three eligibility criteria. After that, in the remaining candidates, we see who is most popular or who has done most social work in that area. Whoever the people know the most.

They are all non-political people?
Some of them are political also; they have left their parties and come. I think 13 candidates are from BJP and Congress.

Are they young?
They are young. I am told more than 80 percent are less than 50 or 45 years.

How do you see the Delhi elections? Is it the semi-final before the 2014 general elections?

This is the start of the battle. I do not know whether this is the quarter-final or the semi-final.

But you are looking beyond Delhi, isn’t it?

The country is important. But when, how, I have no answers right now.

Money is an issue, isn’t it?

Yes, it is a challenge and it is an important thing to deal with. Because the transparency of funds in political system is extremely important if you want to have good governance. And that is what we’ve been doing right from the beginning.

But you are feeling strapped, right? Are funds a problem?

We have a budget of 20 crore (200 million rupees).

For Delhi?

For Delhi. And we are almost reaching that.

What are the areas where you feel weak?

I think the biggest challenge is to reach out to people. Because these parties have been in existence — Congress for more than 100 years and BJP for more than 30 years. So what they achieved in so many decades we have to do … People don’t even know we are there. That is the biggest challenge. There are a lot of people who are illiterate. They do not read; they do not see television.

How do you do that?

Only door-to-door. There are not many hoardings. We do not have that kind of money.

Doesn’t that bother you?

I think door-to-door is the best. Let’s see, what are our strengths and what are their strengths and weaknesses. Our strength is that people are with us.

(Follow Sanjeev on Twitter @sanjeevmiglani; Editing by Vipin Das and Tony Tharakan)

No comments so far

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/