Delhi Chief Minister of 15 years, Sheila Dikshit, who passed away on Saturday, had firmly believed that BJP’s nationalism campaign was aimed at diverting attention from its failures.
In a candid interview with The Week, published on May 11, 2019, Sheila had said that there was no merit in the AAP’s demand for full statehood.
Excerpts from the interview ahead of the Lok Sabha Election results:
How have people responded to your campaign?
I am getting a wonderful response. There is a lot of warmth and affection. They remember the development work that was done when the Congress was in power in Delhi. The dominant feeling now is that the development has come to a standstill. There is tremendous dissatisfaction with both the BJP and the AAP.
It is said you were initially reluctant to contest.
Yes, I was not very keen on contesting. It was for personal reasons. But when the party leadership asked me, I said, OK. I obeyed.
How have things changed in the national capital since the Congress lost in 2013?
Things have taken a turn for the worse in Delhi in several aspects. It is being regarded as one of the most polluted cities in the world. The condition of hospitals and schools has worsened. The urban infrastructure has to be revamped at constant intervals to deal with the growing demands of the city. That is just not happening.
The biggest change that has taken place in Delhi, politically, is that there is a third force at play now, which is the AAP. However, Arvind Kejriwal has proved to be an extremely inept chief minister, blaming others for his government’s lapses.
What about national issues? The BJP is running a campaign high on nationalism.
The people of Delhi would like to vote for a party which they are confident will deliver for them, be it at the state level or at the Centre. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP stand exposed in terms of not having fulfilled the promises made in 2014. Their seven MPs in Delhi are all extremely unpopular. The people of Delhi can see through the BJP’s effort to try and divert attention from its failings by harping on nationalism. They will not be fooled.
The AAP’s main election plank is full statehood for Delhi.
Again, that is a ploy to divert attention from the local government’s failures. We worked in a similar situation and could bring about so much development in the capital. One needs to be practical. I do not think any Central government would be willing to concede this demand because of the simple reason that Delhi is the national capital.
Why were you opposed to an alliance with the AAP?
It was my firm belief that the Congress would have benefited little from the alliance. The party is on a comeback trail in Delhi, and an alliance with the AAP would have been detrimental to its future prospects.
Moreover, any talk of an alliance is based on the number of seats that the parties involved will get. What was proposed by the AAP was not at all a fair deal.
Are there concerns that anti-BJP votes will get split between the Congress and the AAP?
It is true that if the votes get split, the BJP will have an advantage. However, I am confident that such a situation will not arise. The Congress is getting tremendous support in the capital, and it is best placed to unseat the BJP from the seven seats. Except for, maybe, the areas of electricity and water supply, the people are extremely unhappy with the Kejriwal government. I am quite sure that they are left with little support in Delhi.