AAP’s Dilip Pandey on why Arvind Kejriwal doesn’t need political partners to take on PM Modi in 2024 | Interview
AAP leader Dilip Pandey sought to explain why Arvind Kejriwal doesn’t need political partners to take on PM Modi in 2024 and defended Delhi minister Satyendar Jain’s long stay in jail.
By Darpan Singh: Many would think hardcore politics may not be a prolific author and musician’s cup of tea. But Dilip Pandey is one of those who break stereotypes. After being associated with the India Against Corruption movement, the tech-savvy leader played a crucial role in the AAP’s coming to power in Delhi in 2013. In 2014, Dilip Pandey became the convener of the Delhi unit of the AAP, a post he quit in 2017 after the party’s defeat in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) elections at the hands of the BJP. In the 2020 Delhi Assembly polls, Dilip Pandey became an MLA from Delhi’s Timarpur constituency.
He is now the AAP’s chief whip in the Delhi Legislative Assembly and the party’s go-to man for Karnataka where Assembly elections will take place next year. Dilip Pandey is also one of the prominent faces articulating the party’s views and defending its actions, in TV studios and press conferences.
Speaking to IndiaToday.in, Dilip Pandey sought to explain why his leader and Delhi Chief Minister, Arvind Kejriwal, doesn’t need political partners to take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the 2024 general elections. Dilip Pandey also defended Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain’s long stay in jail and revealed his party's preparations for the upcoming MCD polls. Excerpts from the interview.
Q: Leaders such as Nitish Kumar and K Chandrashekar Rao are trying to build opposition unity ahead of 2024. But Arvind Kejriwal does not seem to need support.
Every party is playing its own tune. The BJP is going ahead with its friends. The Congress is in the hands of one family. The idea of opposition unity is farce. It’s a utopian concept. When was the last time when all or most opposition parties came together? And what happened soon after? We have had terrible experiences. The public does not benefit from such an exercise. Only the BJP will benefit. Because there is no one collective opposition agenda.
Q: How does the BJP benefit when all or most opposition parties come together?
If all these parties come together, the BJP will go to town, saying, “See, we’re alone in it. All opportunists have come together to defeat the BJP.” The AAP does not want to be part of any such grouping. The Congress cannot keep its own MLAs within its fold, how will they work for opposition unity? See what happened in Goa. See, what has been happening all this while. Arvind Kejriwal ji has spelt out the AAP’s vision. Our alliance is with the 130 crore people of the country.
Q: But is taking on the BJP even possible without Congress’ support? There do not seem to be any possibilities of an alliance with Mamata Banerjee’s TMC either.
The Congress is not the solution. It cannot be even part of the solution. In no state, they can beat the BJP. The BJP knows only Arvind Kejriwal can do so. And that explains frequent but baseless raids and FIRs against AAP leaders, from Deputy CM Manish Sisodia to MLA Amanatullah Khan. You have seen Mamata Banerjee’s changed approach to the RSS and PM Modi. Kuchh to majbooriyan rahin hongi unki. Operation Lotus is reaching everywhere.
And what is left of the opposition? The BJP is buying leaders from all parties, including the Congress, Mamata Banerjee’s TMC and Nitish Kumar’s JDU. Those difficult to be bought are being pressured through central agencies such as the Enforcement Directorate (ED), the CBI and the Income Tax department. They tried all these tactics on us both in Delhi and Punjab but failed. Our health minister Satyendar Jain’s arrest is a classic case.
Q: Since you mentioned Satyendar Jain’s case, you can accuse the central investigative agencies of bias but why not believe the courts? Arrested in a money-laundering case, he has been in jail for months. The court has not granted him bail even once.
When the bail order was to come, the ED moved a petition requesting the matter to be heard in a different court. What do you make of this?
Q: But the order can go either way. And this still does not explain why Satyendar Jain did not get bail for months. There must be some evidence. Your rivals will say the charge of corruption is finally sticking.
But the thing is, there is no evidence against Satyendar Jain. The ED went to town, saying Rs 2 crore has been seized from him and his associates, while the search memo clearly shows only Rs 2 lakh has been found. And that, too, is accounted for. The judge has repeatedly asked what crime Satyendar Jain has committed. There has been no answer from the ED. The fact is, there is no case against him. They will keep targeting us till the Gujarat Assembly elections.
Q: How is the AAP’s Gujarat campaign going? It’s a state where PM Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah come from.
The BJP is rattled, despite all of that. Our spokespersons have been banned on media platforms. Our leaders are being physically attacked. We’re in a situation which is better than even Delhi’s. We have taken the fear out of the people. Protests had been suppressed for years. Now protesters are out on the streets.
Q: But many would argue Gujarat is not Punjab. That the AAP may grow at the expense of the Congress, as it has in Delhi and Punjab, but is not a serious contender for power. The AAP has not dislodged a BJP government so far.
There is always a first time. What was the main factor in Punjab? People were clamouring for a change. The situation is the same in Gujarat. The BJP has been in power there for about three decades and done nothing in Gujarat. The Gujarat is not Punjab line comes from those who want to discourage us. We have done well in Gujarat’s municipal elections in the past. We have been working hard in the state. People can treat us as a newbie only at their peril.
I’m in-charge of the AAP’s affairs in Karnataka, another BJP-ruled state where state elections will happen next year. Some people there say Karnataka is no Delhi or Punjab. But a tablet of crocin works for a fever patient, irrespective of where she lives. If schools, hospitals, jobs and security benefit people in Delhi, why won’t they benefit those in Karnataka? Or Gujarat? The political chemistry can be different in different states but people, essentially, are the same everywhere: in need of good governance.
Q: Coming back to Delhi, the MCD elections are likely by the end of this year. It’s a crucial exercise, given so much from waste management to licensing to toll and property tax collection to even many of the schools, hospitals, roads and parks comes under the corporation. How are the party’s preparations?
The student who studies around the year doesn’t have to do any specific preparation for the exam. The people of Delhi are fed up with the BJP-ruled MCD. They have made up their mind to throw the party out of power. The AAP has been exposing their incompetence and corruption from multiple fora. The three overflowing landfills today serve as a monument to their politics of kooda (garbage) and corruption. The AAP is confident of a resounding victory under the party’s MCD poll in-charge, Durgesh Pathak who, along with our workers and volunteers, is working hard on that front.
Q: But there is something called the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) that comes under your government. Shouldn't it have been more proactive in addressing the concern of Delhi’s waste mountains?
You have reported on Delhi’s environmental issues. The DPCC’s job is to convene meetings, issue red-flags, warnings and notices. When the situation does not improve even then, it penalises the offenders. These landfills should have been closed long back. The DPCC has imposed penalties worth lakhs of rupees on the MCD. The thing is, it’s beyond MCD’s competence to manage such services. We have worked on schools and hospitals. Waste management was the only thing they had to do. But they failed. But don’t worry, we will do that.
Q: It’s true that the AAP has grown phenomenally but it’s also true that the party has zero MPs in the Lok Sabha. In the last two Lok Sabha elections, the party’s scoreline in Delhi, its bastion, has been 7:0 against the BJP. How do you explain this? In between, you lost the MCD elections in 2017.
The situation has changed. The by-elections to Kondli, Shalimar Bagh and other seats showed that BJP’s politics was getting over in Delhi. The Congress was already finished here. The BJP used all its might in Rajendra Nagar but our Durgesh Pathak won. We will win the MCD polls and also do well in the Delhi Lok Sabha seats in 2024.
Q: In Kejriwal versus Modi in 2024, the party will need a CM in Delhi. Don’t you think? I’m sure the party fancies its chances in the national elections.
We will cross the bridge when we come to it.