A high-profile BJP MP, Meenakshi Lekhi has been representing the New Delhi Lok Sabha constituency since 2014. She is currently a member of the panel of chairpersons in the Lok Sabha. A Supreme Court lawyer, Lekhi has also been a national spokesperson of the BJP for a long time. She is known for articulating the BJP’s stand on various matters in a sharp, incisive manner. In an interview with Aparajit Chakraborty, Lekhi spoke on a range of issues concerning the national capital. Excerpts:
Q) What is your assessment of the Lok Sabha election results in Delhi?
The Congress has reached the number two position in Delhi. But its central leadership is gone. In many places the AAP’s deposit was forfeited. In 2015 (Assembly polls) the Aam Admi Party (AAP) was given such a big mandate ~ 67 of total 70 seats. Everybody in Delhi virtually trusted them five years ago. They had full freedom to govern. But the AAP failed to deliver to fulfil their promises.
Q) Would you agree that the upcoming Delhi Assembly polls might however be a different ball game?
We still have almost six months for the Delhi Assembly polls. I am sure this time the BJP’s strategy will be different. We have learnt from our experiences from 2015 in addition to the fact that AAP recently lost its deposits (in Lok Sabha polls). People wanted to give AAP a chance. They had five years to showcase their talents, but they did not do it. The BJP has a huge opportunity to come forward and save Delhi this time.
Q) But the BJP has not been able to win Delhi for the last five Assembly elections since 1998. Why?
At that time Sheila Dikshit played a strong role in Delhi and later the anti-corruption movement was completely hijacked by AAP. AAP was formed out of the anti-corruption movement. Congress at that time supported AAP. We will this time definitely showcase our national leadership in which people have lots of faith. We were also not in power at the Centre for many years. But our party got such a huge mandate (at the national level) after over three decades. So the same applies here (in Delhi polls).
Q) Do you think the BJP leadership should project a CM candidate for an effective poll campaign in Delhi?
The central leadership will take the decision at the right time. I am no one to take the decision. And I feel the BJP leadership is a very smart and astute leadership. They know what to do and when to do it. They will take the right decision and whatever is best for BJP
Q) What is your take on the Arvind Kejriwal regime, which is widely believed to have done good work in areas like education and health?
I can share some horrible stories about this government. Enrolment rate in government schools has come down during the AAP regime. People prefer to take admission in Kendriya Vidyala and government schools only due to lower fee structure. They (AAP) have spent lots of money on infrastructure without dealing with the issues that are plaguing education. Education is not about the size of school rooms but it is about ensuring adequate number of teachers, quality education and academic atmosphere. Their focus is completely wrong. You need infrastructure, but by constructing a Taj Mahal you can’t help students in studies. If there is no education, what will students do there? Besides, AAP has spent Rs 532 crore for advertisement. It is a stupendous expenditure on wrong things and total mismanagement.
Q) What, in your view, should be the key election issue for Delhi in the Assembly polls?
There are many issues. Good governance by the central government is a major issue. Good governance of the Centre is for everyone to see this time. The AAP is working against the interests of people by reducing the fund for local municipal bodies. You need to strengthen the MCDs (Municipal Corporations of Delhi) to strengthen local government. At the national level it is imperative that states should do well. Similarly, at the state level the municipal bodies should be strengthened for betterment of Delhi. They misused the central fund, misused power, did not strengthen local bodies; it is vindictive attitude of AAP. Not doing so they have incurred the wrath of common people.
Another crisis in Delhi is water and electricity. For a long time water pipes were not changed. In 2015, the Centre had allocated Rs 900 crore due to my initiative to improve infrastructure for electricity. Despite that power cuts are a major cause of concern in the national capital. Budgetary allocation to enhance revenue has not been planned, transport system has not improved. There is misgovernance for everyone to see…. Many deaths have been claimed by sewerage cleaning. The number of alcohol shops has gone up in violation of law. There is a rule that within a certain area there should not be more alcohol shops. How can you violate the law?
Q) Delhi has witnessed the regimes of Sheila Dikshit and Sushma Swaraj, with Dikshit emerging as India’s longest-serving Chief Minister. Don’t you think a woman leader should again lead the national capital as its CM?
I am not biased. I think anyone who is capable should lead the national capital. Party will decide. Man or woman, whoever is capable, should lead, I think.
Q) What is your roadmap and vision for Delhi’s growth and development?
We are heading for the monsoon. Unfortunately, unscientific technologies and corruption are just ruining the city. On one hand there is rainfall, on the other there is water crisis in Delhi. Proper water harvesting system should be there to address water crisis and we should learn it. Rain water and sewerage discharging system should be separated. Most of the storm water goes to sewers. That causes overflowing of sewerage. Desilting work should be carried out. Properly planned housing system, better electricity distribution, education system, transport system, and ration should be there. All these inadequacies should be addressed.