Raghav Chadha is one of the most articulate young politicians in the country. The 31-year-old Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) national spokesman, Chadha won his maiden Assembly election from the Rajinder Nagar constituency in the Delhi polls last month.
A chartered accountant by training, Chadha’s political innings has seen a meteoric rise. He has been associated with the AAP since its inception in 2012 and has held the post of its treasurer. He is a member of the AAP’s Political Affairs Committee (PAC).
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal recently appointed him as Delhi Jal Board (DJB) vice chairman. In an interview with SHARBANI BANERJEE, Chadha spoke on a range of issues including the recent horrific riots that convulsed the national capital.
Q: The recent Delhi riots were the worst communal violence in the city since the 1984 riots. How could such large-scale violence and mayhem erupt in the national capital?
A: Whatever has happened is unfortunate and deeply troubling. As a citizen of Delhi, I am deeply troubled. I wasn’t born in 1984 but all those things that we used to hear about the massacre of 1984, this looks something similar to that and it’s absolutely horrific.
We are told that there are people from outside the city who had crossed into the city from the border areas and who had engineered this entire thing. I say this in no uncertain terms that every person who is perpetrator of the crime, this violence or communal clash irrespective of which party or which ideology he subscribes to should be given the harshest possible punishment.
Q: Who, in your view, must be held responsible for these riots? Don’t you think there must be accountability for such an outrage?
A: Well, a lot of what has happened is attributed to outsiders. The law enforcement agency in Delhi is, of course, Delhi Police who are the principal body responsible for maintaining law and order and I can only hope and even exert pressure on them to bring the perpetrators of riots to justice.
Q: CM Arvind Kejriwal has also been widely criticised for not hitting the streets in riot-hit areas of Northeast Delhi on 23 or 24 February, when the riots broke out. His prompt intervention might have prevented the riots from spiralling out of control.
A: Mr. Kejriwal and his party and his govt have done everything that is possible. The entire might of the civil administration was brought on the ground from day one. All throughout the riot, he was visiting those who were affected, those who were injured, families of those who have lost their loved ones.
In fact, he even visited the riot-hit areas and went to the people and asked them not to indulge in violence and resort to brotherhood and communal peace and harmony.
Q: Delhi Police might not report to Kejriwal, but he could have used his recent massive election mandate and public goodwill and moral force to stem the riots. Don’t you agree?
A: These are motivated questions. Those who have been looking at the administration of Delhi closely know very well that the entire might of the administration was enforced on the ground. Every worker, volunteer, leader, MLA of the AAP was also deployed on the ground.
Volunteers were going door to door. AAP, to some extent, is responsible and should be credited for restoring communal harmony by its active door-to-door campaign, meeting communal leaders and its field marches in the area.
Q: How do you look at the outcome of the recent Delhi Assembly polls?
A: The electorate of Delhi, which is essentially a mini-India, votes on issues of basic amenities that matter in daily lives like water, electricity, school, education, CCTV cameras.
The result shows that divisive communal politics is something that the people rejected outright and they want politics that is work-oriented. They (people) want “kaam ki rajneeti”. They want to vote for a party that works for their welfare.
This election was unique in many ways because this time not only the voters of AAP, but even those who are well-wishers of Congress and the BJP voted on the AAP’s work.
Q: What does the Delhi mandate mean for the AAP and its leadership?
A: It’s a big responsibility as there is a lot of hope and expectation and it humbles us that people had such huge expectations from us. This election also cements the upright and work-oriented politics of AAP.
It means that a model like this can have an electoral footprint beyond Delhi. It also means that people in various parts of the country also want similar type of politics. They want to vote for parties that build schools, mohalla clinics, that gave free electricity, free water, etc.
Q: In the run-up to the Delhi polls, Mr.Kejriwal or the AAP did not openly support anti-CAA-NRC protesters like the Shaheen Bagh protesters and even indulged in “soft Hindutva”. Has the AAP diluted its core secular values in order to compete with the BJP?
A: We have very clearly articulated our view on the entire issue, and we voted in a particular way in Parliament on this particular legislation (CAA). Even outside Parliament, our leaders have issued comments extensively. However, we don’t wish to fall into the trap of BJP. We used to practise our own politics, which is not driven by these things.
Our politics is driven by providing the basic amenities, quality health care to people, access to good quality education to people and we will continue to practise such politics and not fall into BJP’s trap and play to divide the society. If somebody is a worshipper of Lord Hanuman, it is a matter of personal belief. Mr. Kejriwal is also a worshipper of Hanuman.
BJP made it a political issue and highlighted it. I believe matters of faith should remain personal.
Q: What is on top of your agenda as DJB vice-chairman?
A: There are three things. I wish to play a role in fulfilling the vision, dream and promise made by Mr. Kejriwal, which is to ensure 24X7 piped water supply to every household in Delhi, to clean Yamuna, and to ensure that 100 per cent households in Delhi are connected to piped water supply and proper sewer connections.