People ask for jobs, Modi offers them Pakistan: Manish Sisodia
ET caught up with Delhi’s Deputy CM Manish Sisodia as he wrapped up campaigning for party candidate Atishi in the Khichripur slums of East Delhi.
What are the AAP government’s two biggest achievements so far?
First is the confidence we have instilled among the people in honest governance. We haven’t raised taxes; we have cut tax liability on GST; our e-way bill (for intrastate goods movement) is the most trader-friendly. Delhi’s budget has doubled. Hence, there is no dearth of money for development work. Second, we have shown that quality education for all in government schools is possible. Earlier, there was an impression that only 5-10% students can get A-grade education. Even policymaker felt this. But we have proved otherwise.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has promised 85% quota for local students in Delhi’s colleges. Will this not hurt diversity and hinder chances of students from other states?
It is the opposite. Dilli sabki hai (Delhi belongs to everyone). People from all states make Delhi their home. A man from Bihar, who has settled here and is getting his children educated in Delhi’s schools, will not get any priority otherwise. He has lost the option of sending his kids back to Bihar. It is not his fault that he has settled here. We have facts with us: in Delhi, 2.25-2.5 lakh students clear Class XII exams every year but the total college intake was 90,000. We have opened 13 new colleges and institutions, raising the intake to 1.25 lakh students. People from other states, whose children studied in Delhi’s government schools, must be given priority — be it a rickshaw-puller from Bihar or be it a software engineer from Tamil Nadu. I am not promoting regionalism.
How many Lok Sabha seats will the AAP win in Delhi?
We are winning all seven seats But BJP won all the seats in 2014.
Why do you feel it will be different this time?
It’s simple: the Congress will hardly get 6-7% vote share. Our fight is with the BJP and the BJP has only one issue: People ask for jobs, Narendra Modi offers them Pakistan; they ask for hospitals, he utters the word terrorism; traders want GST relief, he gives them Hindu-Muslim talk. But people are aware that bogus issues do not work in the real world.
The AAP rose on an anti-corruption plank. Now the party talks about caste and religion of Opposition candidates. Why?
Our plank is honest governance. But sometimes caste and religion have to be stated and sought. One BJP candidate [Hans Raj Hans] has accepted Islam. So he needs to clarify this since he is fighting from a reserved seat [Northwest Delhi]. In public life, people have the right to know. We are not seeking votes on the basis of caste. But if someone plays with the constitutional fabric, we will raise the issue.
And what was the need to tweet about Atishi’s caste?
In Atishi’s case, we were again forced to raise the issue. When she sought votes based on the work she has done in education, the Congress spread lies among Muslims that she is a Yehudi (Jew) and cited the example of Palestine: that Muslims and Jews have historically been enemies. To unmask these lies, we had to state that she is a Rajput.
What went wrong with the plan of an AAP-Congress tie-up against the BJP?
We tried hard. We feel Modi and Amit Shah are a threat to the country and its institutions. To stop the BJP, we don’t need the Congress where we are fully present, like in Delhi. But in Goa, Haryana and Punjab, we could have together stopped the BJP. The Congress wanted to play only Dilli-Dilli. We were averse to a Delhi-only pact. So the talks did not work. We do not love the Congress but we hate Modi and Amit Shah.
And what does the party feel about Rahul Gandhi?
No man is a bigger threat to the country than Modi – not even Rahul Gandhi. No one else can inflict greater damage to the country’s institutions. Modi has only one policy: to communalise Bharat on the lines of Syria and Afghanistan, flare up riots and do his politics.
So will you support Rahul Gandhi at the Centre if needed?
We will support anybody who is anti-BJP and anti-Modi. There is only one condition – that the party will have to support us in getting full statehood for Delhi.
Do people of Delhi want full statehood?
When a common man goes for any work, he is not sure whom to approach, where to go. We want clear-cut governance, which is possible only with full statehood. A fractured mandate is good for officers but bad for common people.
The Supreme Court has rejected Opposition’s review plea for checking 50% of VVPAT [Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail]. Why did you press for it?
If democracy of the country is being sabotaged, if EVMs [electronic voting machines] are being spotted in trucks and hotels, this kind of auto check is crucial. To check this, partial but substantial VVPAT counting will go a long way in spotting and curbing wrongdoing. We are getting reports that whichever button you press, only the BJP candidate is getting selected.
How big is the Pulwama attack a factor in these polls?
BJP has no other issue apart from Pakistan. The issues [Arvind] Kejriwal has raised are important: just before elections, Pulwana happens and you claim Balakot airstrike — which is not a small task. I salute the armed forces for this. Now you are seeking votes on Pulwama. On the other side, Imran Khan, the Prime Minister of Pakistan that lost 300 lives [in Balakot airstrike] is saying Modi must return as PM as he is good for Pakistan! Please clarify what is going on. What is the actual relationship between Modi and Pakistan?