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'Campaign will be based on performance'

Published : Dec 05, 2003 00:00 IST

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Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dixit is not perturbed by the Bharatiya Janata Party's attempt to politicise issues of governance and level unsubstantiated allegations against her party and government during the election campaign. In an interview to Amulya Gopalakrishnan, she outlines her strengths and the basis for her optimism. Excerpts:

How are you gearing up for the campaign? What major issues does this election hinge on?

The campaign is going to be based entirely on our government's performance. You have seen a far-reaching and holistic improvement in our public transport system, healthcare facilities, education, green cover, and the quality of the very air we breathe.

The Bharatiya Janata Party has insisted that most of the achievements that you cite were not your projects at all. For example, they point out that the shift to the compressed natural gas (CNG) regime was forced on you by the Supreme Court's intervention in the matter, and the Metro project was a long-time dream of the earlier administration led by Madan Lal Khurana.

This is just an unfair attempt to snatch credit. The point is, the CNG project, the Metro, and all the flyovers constructed were achieved in our term. It is not about the thought process but the effective implementation of it that my government has carried through.

Is it true that your greatest test comes from the factions within your own party? Why are you not being projected as the future Chief Minister by the party?

Which party does not have infighting? Does not the BJP have factionalism? I am the Chief Minister of Delhi, and I will lead the party to the election. There is no need to make an effort to pitch me as the face of the party. There are bound to be differing opinions about the selection of candidates, but the party will go to the polls as one.

The BJP's campaign is, in their words, aimed at "exposing the faults of the Sheila Dixit government". They plan to make corruption a major issue. Are you going to take them head on?

Name one corruption charge levelled against me that has stuck? Our campaign is going to be very different, we do not need to stress on anything but our performance. In my opinion, politics is not about negativity. The question really is, what are you offering the people, what are your policies? We have successfully implemented the Bhagidaari scheme, which brings the government closer to the people, for which we got national and international recognition.

How do you respond to the dengue deaths, which are being projected as one of the biggest failures of your government?

This is nothing but a smear campaign. As Health Minister Sushma Swaraj and I said in a joint statement that the dengue outbreak was a natural calamity, and we have controlled the crisis. In fact, in 1997-98, Delhi suffered a similar outbreak in which over 400 people were killed and far more affected. But we did not politicise it, because we do not seek to capitalise on natural tragedies. Instead, we concentrated our efforts on dealing with it, just as we defused an onion crisis and a milk crisis in the making. Good governance is about good crisis management.

(This story was published in the print edition of Frontline magazine dated Dec 05, 2003.)

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