Asenior minister in the Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi government, Gopal Rai is also a key leader of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). He holds multiple portfolios in the Kejriwal government including rural development, general administration, irrigation and flood control, and labour. A member of AAP’s National Executive, Rai is also a member of the party’s top body, Political Affairs Committee (PAC) and convener of the AAP’s Delhi unit.

Rai has a postgraduate degree in sociology from Lucknow University and was a student leader there. Later, he was also part of Anna Hazare’s movement against corruption. In the upcoming Delhi Assembly polls, Rai is set to play the role of a key strategist for his party. In an interview with SHARBANI BANERJEE, he spoke on a range of issues.

Excerpts:

Q: What is the AAP’s stand on the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC)?

A: CAA is entirely against the Constitution and the poor people of this country. This Act will neither benefit the general public nor the nation. See how more than 19 lakh people have been excluded from the final version of the NRC in Assam. Of these 19 lakh people, around five lakh were Muslims, and a large number of them were Purvanchalis. People are already struggling hard with issues such as unemployment, inflation, poverty ~ and this CAA has only added to their woes. Instead of focusing on issues like CAA and NRC, the central government should focus on fundamental problems that must be addressed.

Q: Do you think the CAA and the NRC issues will have an impact on the Delhi Assembly polls?

A: No, I do not think there will be any impact of these issues on polls. In any case, CAA-NRC is a central issue. Delhi’s elections will be determined by the incumbent government’s work, and we have given our best. We worked hard in every sector like providing free electricity up to 200 units, free bus service for women, among other schemes. The BJP does not do any work. Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently addressed a rally on Delhi’s unauthorised colonies at Ramlila Maidan. People living in those colonies expected their houses’ registry. However, none of them has got it. The BJP does not have a policy nor the leader. I would say that even Congress was better than BJP as the previous Congress government had at least distributed provisional certificates to people living in unauthorised colonies.

Q: Delhi has been witnessing massive protests against the CAA and the NRC.But the AAP has not directly held any such protest. Is this because your party fears backlash from the Modi-Shah followers in the national capital?

A: Since BJP wants polarisation on every issue, we wanted to avoid that. We want peaceful protests, and that’s the only solution. AAP is against any violence. Even if we held a protest, some chaotic elements could turn the protest violent by intruding into it ~ that we would never want to happen. It is not we but people who will answer this through the vote and will express their choice. We live in a democracy where everyone has the freedom to exercise his or her right and choice through a vote.

Q: Some of your critics say despite being Delhi’s ruling party the AAP did not openly come out in favour of Jamia Millia Islamia students even after they faced Delhi Police’s alleged brutal crackdown inside their campus?

A: I don’t agree with that. We held many press conferences after the issue. Our chief minister Arvind Kejriwal addressed media over the issue, took to social media openly and condemned the Delhi Police’s action.

Q: What will be the AAP’s key campaign issues for the Delhi polls?

A: Whatever work we did in the last five years, people are happy with that. They are getting “zero” electricity bill, and women are travelling free in buses. All these will continue, and we will take it ahead and tell people about that only. Next month, we will release our manifesto and we will announce top 10 plans to be accomplished in our next term.

Q: Will your entire election campaign again centre around Kejriwal?

A: Yes, Arvind Kejriwalji is our CM candidate and our leader. The campaign will centre on him for sure. “Acche Beete Paanch Saal, Lage Raho Kejriwal” is the slogan we have already launched.

Q: It is not easy to replicate your party’s performance of the 2015 Delhi polls.Don’t you think so?

A: In 2015, it was a promise; in 2020, it’s a reality. Our government is the one which worked more than any other government in the country. Last time we had promised the people about the facilities we would provide, but this time they have seen our work in reality.

Q: In the 2015 elections, a slew of well-known activists and professionals from various walks of life ~ including Yogendra Yadav, Prashant Bhushan and Ashutosh among others ~ were part of the AAP fold.How much would their exit from the AAP affect the party’s poll prospects this time?

A: Every person has their role and place undoubtedly. However, this time the Delhi Assembly polls will not be determined by any strategy. It will be all about the work we have done in the last five years. Despite all the odds and obstacles, we have performed ~ and those who understand our work will support AAP.

Q: Your party’s alliance with the Congress could not fruct i fy during the Lok Sabha elections. Is there any possiblity of it in the coming Delhi pol ls, i f required?

A: It won’t be required at all. We will for sure win 67 plus seats, and we are confident about it.