After serving Delhi as its Chief Minister for three consecutive terms (1998-2013), senior Congress leader Sheila Dikshit is back in electoral politics. This is the first time when Dikshit is contesting any Lok Sabha seat since 1998 and the party has fielded her against Bharatiya Janata Party’s Manoj Tiwari – who is considered to be one of the strongest candidates in the fray - from North East Delhi parliamentary constituency. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has decided to go ahead with Dilip Pandey to challenge both Dikshit and Tiwari. Although Dikshit - former governor of Kerala – herself accepts that it is going to be a triangular fight from her constituency, the Delhi Congress president exuded confidence that she would clinch a comfortable victory. She also took a dig at the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) saying it is a newly formed party and stands nowhere as compared to the 'Grand Old Party'.
Here are the excerpts of the interview:
Q: You have been the longest serving CM of Delhi, how things have changed in the last four years under the AAP government?
A: We are elected three times primarily because of the service we provided to Delhi and that style of serving the city is no longer visible. They only carried on with what we had already started. For example, the Signature Bridge - it was started by us, designed by us and they merely inaugurated it and now if you look at the upkeep of the bridge it's really coming down. So there's the difference the way we approached the governance and the way they approach it.
Q: How do you see Arvind Kejriwal as a politician?
A: I have no comments to make on him.
Q: Despite so many differences, why Congress was trying to seal an alliance with the AAP?
A: The Congress was particularly keen that if the alliance comes around it would be by mutual acceptance by both the parties but the Congress didn't accept the terms and conditions.
Q: Do you think the alliance would have benefited both the parties?
A: We have got all the seven seats and let's see what happens now. We are confident to win.
Q: Every party is saying it has no competition and confident of winning. You are a seasoned politician, what is your ground assessment and which party is the main challenger to the Congress?
A: When you contest an election, whether you have two, three or four people or party fighting against you, each one of them is a challenge. You take it as a challenge. You cannot sit back and say that there's no challenge. You have to fight an election and you have to fight to win and whatever it takes to win you to adopt that.
Q: So you consider it as a triangular contest?
A: Obviously it is. I don't have to consider it, it's there.
Q: Do you think the BJP is the biggest gainer of this failed alliance talks between the AAP and the Congress?
A: No, I don't think so. You must remember that the AAP is a small party, it a very recent party. It's not a widely spread party so we had to deal with it like that. Even if it tries to become big like us, it is mistaken.
Q: What will be the key issues in North East Delhi constituency that you will raise before the voters?
A: I think one of the key issues that I have been able to see there is maintenance. The whole place is looking so dilapidated, roads are very bad, cleanliness is bad so I think it needs lots of work at the grass-root level. Simple thing is that you and I like to live in a nice, good city. That's what we plan to make Delhi.
Q: There were talks of you initially contesting from East Delhi and Chandni Chowk. Did party field you from North East Delhi considering tough competition from BJP's Manoj Tiwari, who is considered to be a very popular leader?
A: I don't know what the reason was. Whatever party offered me, I took it. I didn't question that.
Q: How do you see your direct contest with BJP's Manoj Tiwari?
A: I see no contest, I am confident that I will win.
Q: How do you think the Congress party will perform in the Lok Sabha elections 2019?
A: I think it's doing well and it is doing much better than last time and I hope it will reach a point where it would be asked to form a government.
Q: The Supreme Court asked Rahul Gandhi to apologise for 'chowkidar chor hai' remark regarding Rafale deal. Do you think its a setback for Congress campaign against the BJP?
A: No, no. What's a setback about it. There are so many things that we can ask courts to stop them from saying that. I personally think that the way the Prime Minister reacts to Rahul, it looks though he is afraid.
Q: Sealing drive is one of the biggest issues in the national capital. Who according to you is responsible for it and what will the Congress party do if it wins here?
A: I tell you this sealing is all wrong. It should have been stopped. Whatever building they are sealing now, whether it's a shop or whether it's a house they are doing it too late now. It should have stopped right in the beginning and then make them pay whatever they have to pay. Now when they have lived there and worked there for decades or more or less, I think it is very unfair taking their rights of them. Tell them that you will charge something and then legalise their building or place but you don't just seal it and stop the person from earning anything or living anywhere at all.
Q: Udit Raj threatened to quit BJP if not given a ticket and he did so. Don't you think this kind of politics of intimidation is wrong for one and all?
A: That's his personal choice and I think in a democracy, everybody has a choice and if they want to accept a choice and join something else then it's ok. It is not the first time that this has happened. It's happening from years and decades in India. That's the kind of democracy we have, liberal kind of democracy. So I don't think there's anything wrong at all.