Manish Sisodia

‘Governance in Delhi our topmost concern’

Print edition : March 06, 2015

Manish Sisodia. Photo: Sushil Kumar Verma

Interview with Manish Sisodia, senior AAP leader.

WHILE the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) feels the exhilaration of the landslide victory in the Delhi Assembly elections, it is not jumping the gun to announce unrealistic targets to go pan-India despite a temptation to do so. Senior party leader Manish Sisodia, in this interview to Frontline before he was named the Deputy Chief Minister, was temperate in his views on the party’s expansion plans. “We will take things forward step by step. The national executive will meet soon to take stock of things and decide the future course of action,” he said.

Excerpts:

How would you describe such a massive victory? What made this possible?

Amazing, there is no other word for it. We were hopeful of winning, and we were expecting over 50 seats, but even in our wildest imagination we did not expect this a sort of a victory. This shows that people started reconnecting with us when we went back to them. They started believing in us. They were convinced, going by our performance during our 49 days in government [in 2014] that we would be able to govern. Our honesty and sincerity also paid off, especially when contrasted with the eight months of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s [BJP] rule at the Centre. After the Lok Sabha elections, we realised that people were upset with us for not continuing in office. But when we explained our stand and sought forgiveness, they understood and gave us tremendous love. But this [the result] is totally overwhelming. We never imagined that it would turn out like this.

Now that you have such a massive mandate, you are expected to deliver in full measure. What is at the top of your priority list?

Governance in Delhi. That is going to be our topmost concern. A lot of work needs to be done in the field of bijli-sadak-pani [electricity, roads and water], health care, education, housing. The list is long.

The most obvious question now is what next? Where are you going next as part of your all-India expansion plans? Will it be Punjab first?

It is too early to say that. Punjab is being talked about because we have a good organisational set-up there and we got encouraging results in the Lok Sabha elections. But our national executive will take a call on that after reviewing the situation.

Only eight months ago you jumped into the fray hastily, contesting more than 470 Lok Sabha seats, and lost your deposit in most of them. Has that defeat made you more cautious now?

We do not regret our decision to contest that many seats in the Lok Sabha elections. We were under no illusion. We knew we wouldn’t win big and that Arvind [Kejriwal] wouldn’t become the Prime Minister. We wanted to register our presence all over India and we succeeded in doing that. Even if we lost badly, it gave us a respectable organisational base and a dedicated group of workers. Most of the people who became associated with us at that time have stayed on. Now we will review the situation, see where we stand in each State and then decide. Our Mission Vistaar is on and the national executive will take stock of the situation and decide the future course of action.

The Janata Dal (United) leader Nitish Kumar, congratulating the AAP on its victory, said the BJP would meet the same fate in Bihar [which is in an election year]. Are you considering Bihar as your next destination?

No, no. There are no such plans at the moment and we are not in consultation with any party.

Do you think your election is a vote against the BJP?

Let’s not look at this in terms of victory or defeat. That is over now. Now, the time has come to talk of governance, delivery and work. It is the time to start solving people’s problems. They have reposed so much faith in us that we have the daunting task of rising to their expectations.

That means no more dharnas?

What do you mean no more dharnas? There is nothing wrong in holding a dharna. This is a democratic right to protest or to press one’s demands. People had no problem with our dharnas, and if necessary we will stage dharnas again. When we went around explaining why we resigned, nobody told us that we were wrong about staging a dharna. They were upset with us for other reasons, not because we staged a dharna.

There have been rumblings within the party. Your colleague and founder-member Prashant Bhushan has talked about “problematic issues” within the party. He was nowhere to be seen during campaigning either. You were missing from the picture when the results were declared. Arvind Kejriwal was seen greeting the supporters, which was a rather unusual sight because the two of you have always been found together at all crucial moments in matters relating to the AAP. You have been described as his second-in-command. Your comments?

Problematic issues, if there are any, will be discussed within the party. It is only normal for different people to have different viewpoints. As for my absence from the party office when the results were declared, I was at my own counting centre, with my volunteers who had toiled untiringly for me without expecting anything in return. I wanted to be with them at that crucial moment and I wanted to celebrate that moment with them. Just for a picture op, I will not desert my committed workers. As for being Arvind’s second-in-command, there are many second-in-commands now. The moment I was required at the party office, I went there. Please do not read more into this.

What will be your role in Mission Vistaar?

I will do whatever is required for the party. We still have to decide that.

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