A member of the Aam Aadmi Party’s Political Affairs Committee, Atishi is all set to contest the upcoming Lok Sabha poll as her party’s candidate from the east Delhi constituency. Appointed as a spokesperson of the AAP in 2013, the articulate 37-year-old activist-leader has been representing her party at various platforms and in TV debates with finesse and gravity. She served as an advisor, especially on education, to Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia from July 2015 to April 2018. In an interview to SYED HASHIM NAJMI, Atishi spoke on a range of issues.
Q: What is going to be your party’s plank for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls in Delhi and why?
A: It has been four years since the AAP government was formed in Delhi. During these four years what Delhi has seen is that this government is trying to work with the right intent. However, be it in the area of education or health care or electricity, a lot of the Delhi government’s functions were stalled by the LG and the BJP. If Delhi’s seven MPs were from the AAP, the Delhi government’s hands would have got strengthened.
For instance, when we asked for land for schools, colleges and hospitals, we were not able to get land from the DDA. If we had MPs from Delhi, then many of our pending projects, which required land, and other such issues would have got resolved. That really is going to be our poll plank.
Q: And what would be the focus of your own campaign in east Delhi, given that you would be the AAP’s candidate in this key parliamentary constituency?
A: East Delhi is one of the most neglected parts of the city in terms of schools, colleges, hospitals and other kinds of infrastructure. It is only now that there is an east Delhi campus of the Delhi Technological University in Vivek Vihar. We are in the process of opening a campus of IP University too. In this entire area you have only one government super-specialty hospital ~ GTB Hospital. DDA has got a plot earmarked next to Geeta Colony for building a hospital. It is not giving that plot to the Delhi government. We will get land for schools and colleges too as this is one of our key poll planks.
Second, security is another major issue. There are very few PCR vans that you see in east Delhi.
Q: It is believed that you chose to drop your well-known surname “Marlena” from your name for electoral reasons. Your comments?
A: See, Marlena was never my surname. Marlena is a second name that my parents had given me. So, my surname is the family name. Right. My surname is actually Singh. But I have never actually used that. And Marlena was a second name that I was using for many years. But for election purposes I am using Atishi.
Q: What do you make of reports that there might be a seat-sharing alliance between the AAP and the Congress in the general elections in Delhi?
A: Yes, we also read this in the newspapers. This seat-sharing arrangement has been done by media houses rather than by the parties involved, supposedly.
Q: In your assessment, what have been the key accomplishments of the Arvind Kejriwal government so far?
A: See, I think, there have been three really important achievements of this government in Delhi. One is regarding electricity. Till four years ago, electricity prices used to go up every sixth month. But now for the past four years electricity prices have not gone up even once. This goes to show that there is no collusion between the government and the discoms. Not only that, you are now getting electricity supply 24 X 7.
Second, the government school system had virtually been like a patient in coma earlier. But, now government schools are showing better results than private schools in Delhi. The Kejriwal government’s third major achievement is in the area of the health care system, especially the Mohalla Clinics which have for the first time emerged as a feasible solution for providing health care at the grassroots level.
Q: But, why couldn’t the AAP government really deliver on the question of cleansing the system of corruption in Delhi, which was the avowed reason for its formation?
A: Much credit for that goes to the Central government and the BJP. The Anti-Corruption Branch (ACB) had been with the Delhi government ever since Delhi got its first elected government in 1992. In 2015, when ACB became active for the first time, the Central government sent paramilitary forces to make the ACB cower. They said since it is a police station which comes under the Central government, the Delhi government cannot use it. Two, the other way to control corruption is to hold a departmental disciplinary inquiry among other things. So, if there is no state government’s control over bureaucrats, how is one going to control corruption?
Q: Another alleged failure of the Kejriwal dispensation has been in ensuring the safety and security of girls and women in Delhi, which is widely considered to be the most unsafe city for them in the country?
A: As of now, the entire law and order and the police come under the Central government. In fact, this is the reason why it is going to be one of our important poll planks. If all seven Delhi MPs are from AAP, we can make some significant difference on the women’s security issue in the national capital.
Q: The Delhi government is blamed for not doing enough to curb air pollution in the city. Does your government have any elaborate plan in this regard?
A: There are two factors as far as air pollution is concerned. Most people are concerned about air pollution in winter. But bulk of pollution at that point of time comes from outside Delhi. Till the stubble-burning stops in Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan, what can the Delhi government do? So, we are trying to see that a lot of these issues should get resolved at the national level. Secondly, Delhi now has one of the most advanced electric vehicle policies. Electric buses are under trial and we are looking for subsidies on electric two-wheelers.
Q: Your party has proposed to regularise all unauthorised colonies in the city but the BJP-led Central government seems to be not on the same page. So, how will you do it?
A: We will struggle for it. Actually, there has been a consistent effort to prevent this regularisation. The charge sheet issued against our minister Satyendar Jain ~ why should a CBI charge sheet mention this policy on unauthorised colonies? It is not that they (Centre) are just not cooperating, they are actually stopping it.