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Saturday Interview | ‘AAP govt has failed Delhi’

He had started his remarkable political journey from student politics in 1970 as a member of the RSS’ students wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad.

Aparajit Chakraborty | New Delhi |

The leader of the Opposition in the Delhi Assembly, RAMVIR SINGH BIDHURI, is a veteran BJP leader and legislator in the national capital. Bidhuri, 68, was elected to the first Delhi Assembly in 1993 from the Badarpur Assembly constituency, going on to win from this constituency in the 2003, 2013 and 2020 polls as well.

He had started his remarkable political journey from student politics in 1970 as a member of the RSS’ students wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad. He was conferred the ‘Best MLA Award’ for 2003-04 by the then Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee.

In a free-wheeling interview with APARAJIT CHAKRABORTY, he speaks on a wide range of issues.

Excerpts:

Q. What is your assessment of the Ar vind Kejriwal-led AAP government which has been ruling Delhi for the past seven years?

A. During its tenure, the Aam Aadmi Party government has brought Delhi to the brink of destruction. This government takes every decision only from the political point of view and has nothing to do with the development of Delhi or its citizens.

It has proved to be a big failure on every front, be it water, power, roads, transport, health, education, food ration, pollution control, public transport or environment. Delhi has become one of the world’s most polluted capitals.

The health infrastructure was devastated due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. If the problems of the public are raised in the Delhi Assembly, the legislators are forced to leave the House.

Q. What about the state of affairs in the state BJP, which has not been able to win Delhi for the last six Assembly elections since 1998?

A. It’s a misconception that the BJP didn’t win the elections in Delhi at all. In the Lok Sabha elections in 2014 and 2019, the BJP won all the seven seats in Delhi.

Ever since the establishment of the Municipal Corporation in Delhi in 1997, the BJP has been winning with an overwhelming majority till now, except for the years from 2002 to 2007. In 2013, the BJP won 32 seats and became the largest party to win the Assembly elections. Winning and losing are part of the game.

With the welfare schemes initiated by the Central government we have won the hearts of people.

Q. The Narendra Modi-led central government has enacted a law that says the Delhi government means Lt Governor. Is this not an insult to Delhi’s democratically-elected government?

A. There is a need to analyse this matter deeply. Delhi is a union territory where the Central government has the seat of power and has its own limitations in functioning.

When Delhi was allotted the status of a state, a special provision was made that even after being given this position, all matters related to law and order, police force, land and services will remain with the Lt Governor. Until the Aam Aadmi Party regime came to power in Delhi, there was no contention or conflict that could be seen.

Barring the above, in all the remaining matters the Delhi government has the last say and that situation still exists. The real trouble erupted when the Delhi government started functioning as a full-fledged state. Let me give you an example.

There is a rule in the Delhi government that if any Bill in the Cabinet has been given a green signal then it becomes necessary to send it to the Lt Governor. It is only after that it can be tabled in the Assembly. The Delhi government has violated this rule.

Earlier despite different political parties being at the Centre and at the state, there was coordination. During the Kejriwal regime there is a constant conflict between both the governments and almost no coordination. With this new law both sides will have their own knowledge of boundaries and the coordination will increase.

Q. The brutal second Covid wave devastated Delhi during April-May this year, which got worse due to an acute shortage of oxygen, hospital beds, and essential medicines. Don’t you think that both the Centre and the Delhi government are responsible for this epic tragedy?

A. I would never want to witness such a situation again in my life. Between April and May this year, the state saw a huge outcry for medical services, wherein large number of citizens were falling prey to the pandemic every day.

Hospitals were facing an acute shortage of medical staff and supplies such as ventilators, ICU beds, and the number of cases was continuously rising. While the government claimed to have procured 30,000 beds, the actual availability was around 4,000 beds.

The private hospitals were charging an exorbitant rate for Covid treatment. The oxygen cylinders became another issue as the government had failed to ensure the proper distribution of oxygen.

Due to the deteriorating state of affairs, one of the senior legislators from the Aam Aadmi Party was seen requesting for President’s Rule. Support was extended by large Central government hospitals to help the Delhi government.

Q. The national capital’s law and order situation remains a matter of serious concern, with the city continuing to be unsafe for girls and women. Who should be held accountable for it, given that Delhi Police comes under the Union ministry of home affairs (MHA)?

A. Delhi being the capital of India has always been the centre of attention. The work being done by Delhi Police is commendable as crime detection and prevention rates have improved by 80 per cent in the last few years. However, there is a need for stricter laws to ensure the safety of women.

Even a single case should not be tolerated by the state. As far as the safety of women is concerned, there is also a need for awareness and change of mindset. Mostly in such cases, the people who are known to the victim are actual culprits.

Hence, society also needs to support the police to reform the situation in Delhi. While the Delhi government has no control over the police department, it is important to ensure cooperation between the Delhi government and Delhi Police.

Q. There seems to be a strong antiincumbency against the BJP in areas of the three Delhi municipal corporations (MCDs) where it has been in power for the past 15 years. Don’t you think it will be a challenge for your party to retain them in the 2022 MCDs polls?

A. I don’t see any anti-incumbency for the BJP in these elections. It is a known fact that all the three MCDs are working to their full capacity and performing their tasks diligently. The Delhi government has also failed to give salaries to municipal workers on time.

I think during the pandemic the work of the three MCDs has been commendable, and if there is any anti-incumbency among the public then it is not against the BJP but against the Delhi government which has prevented the MCDs from performing at its best due to personal grudge.

Q.What is your roadmap and vision for Delhi’s growth and development?

A. A proper action plan is required to solve the problems that Delhi is facing right now. Giving free electricity or other facilities is not a solution to the problem, nor can it be seen as development. There is an urgent need to address alarming levels of pollution in the city.

Public transport, health care infrastructure need an overhaul. Electric vehicles and non-polluting industrial parks should be ensured to address pollution. It should be ensured that Delhi gets clean and sufficient water and that measures are taken to clean Yamuna river.

Delhi needs shopping complexes, entertainment parks, and large community centres. Policies should be made keeping in mind that Delhi will witness a burden of massive population explosion in the next few years. Hence, Delhi should be administered by those who can understand and foresee the growth of the city.