Senior Congress leader and former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit is the Lok Sabha candidate of her party from the Northeast Delhi constituency. In a conversation with Deexa Khanduri, she says she is confident of a victory
Senior Congress leader and former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit is the Lok Sabha candidate of her party from the Northeast Delhi constituency. In a conversation with Deexa Khanduri, she says she is confident of a victory, dismissing the Aam Aadmi Party’s claim that the good work of the Arvind Kejriwal government will translate into votes for its parliamentary candidates. In fact, she says all the good work that has been done in the state is neither that of the AAP government or the BJP government at the centre. Edited excerpts from the interview:
Why did you choose the Northeast Delhi parliamentary constituency to contest in the 2019 elections? What are the challenges you face?
I know the problems of the area since long. In 1998, when I stood for Lok Sabha elections for the first time in Delhi, the Congress gave me a ticket from the East Delhi constituency. After delimitation, many areas that were part of East Delhi are part of the Northeast Delhi parliamentary constituency. Today, having got an opportunity to contest from Delhi, I chose a place that looks most backward, most unlike other, developed parts of Delhi. I choose a constituency where no work has been done.
You are campaigning in Delhi after five years. How do people react when you visit them?
I meet people on regular basis. Currently, Delhi is in a mess. No work has been done for the people living here. Since last year, I have been meeting people to understand their issues and what they expect from the Congress. People come to my home daily and share their problems. Our party is committed to work for them.
The incumbent MP of Northeast Delhi is Manoj Tiwari, the BJP’s Delhi unit chief. How do you see the competition?
I’m very confident about winning. I’ll win the seat. Manoj Tiwari claims to be a Bihari, and he’s sure he will get the votes of the Poorvanchalis living in the area, a significant number. But let me remind you: I’m a Delhiwala but also a UP-walla. I come from Uttar Pradesh. I have been working in Delhi for the past 20-25 years, and the people of Delhi will vote for a change. No work has been done by any party in Northeast Delhi so far. The only time development projects were initiated there was when the Congress was ruling in Delhi.
Why do you say that?
Our government started work on the Signature Bridge: we designed it and planned it and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government took credit for it. We brought the metro rail to the city, and now, the state and the central governments are unable to plan for extending it to reach all parts of Delhi. It’s not just one project, but the bridges, the roads, or any infrastructure inaugurated by the AAP government was planned during the Congress regime.
What do you think of the AAP government’s performance?
It’s not a fair question to answer, and I don’t think much about them. I certainly don’t see them as a threat.
A series of meetings were held between the AAP and the Congress to arrive at an alliance. But the day before the last day for filing nominations, the Congress went ahead and declared its list of candidates. When both parties seemed so keen on the alliance, what went wrong?
First, we never asked them to ally with the Congress in Delhi. They were keen on an alliance with us; they sent us a proposal, and it didn’t work out. Secondly, the Congress is not a party that has just been born. We are the grand old party, and we don’t need an alliance.
But you waited till the last minute.
Who was indulging in that speculation? Only the media. I was reading about or hearing of an alliance formation only in the news. We never declared that we were looking for an alliance. The media fails to use basic common sense. Now, we [the Congress and AAP] have declared our candidates and we’re fighting an election against each other. Yes, there were talks, but they failed to conclude.
How do you see the BJP MPs’ performance in Delhi?
I don’t think they have done anything spectacular, memorable, something that could be talked about.
How confident do you feel about the Congress’s chances in Delhi?
Very confident. We will perform well in Delhi, and people know that both the other parties have not done anything for the city. Under the leadership of Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, we will perform well. We are reaching out to the public with our performance in Delhi in the past. The entire Congress is collectively working in the city, and we will perform well.
What are you promising the people?
The Congress has already put out its manifesto, in which we say that if elected, we will fill all vacant government positions by 2020; we will pay '72,000 yearly to those who are unable to find employment. We are taking responsibility for the welfare of every individual; once we are elected, we will fulfil that promise.
Our manifesto talks about every sector and individuals, including employment, NYAY, taxation, kisan budget, MNREGA 3.0, reservation of 33 percent of seats in the Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies for women, increasing the [GDP] share of manufacturing industry from 16 percent to 25 percent, increasing the fund and share of the defence and health ministries, and more. State-level issues are raised during campaigns, and we are highlighting the achievements of the Congress governments in Delhi as well as at the centre.
Dr Udit Raj, a dalit leader and the BJP MP from Northwest Delhi, joined your party after his party denied him the ticket in the current parliamentary elections. Your comments.
We welcome him. He’s a known face in Delhi for the past many years and has a good hold on the people of his constituency. Whatever be his reasons for joining the Congress, we will listen to him and we will work from there.
(This interview appears in the May 15, 2019 edition)