By Mayank Jain:Â
Delhi is going to be a battle field in the coming days as elections loom large. Can AAP recreate its magic and woo the voters of Delhi? Is it too late for the party to fight the Modi wave? We talked to Aam Aadmi Party’s national spokesperson Anand Kumar who is contesting from the North East Delhi constituency and the freewheeling conversation has some interesting insights:
The North-East Delhi constituency has turned into a battleground of three major forces since Congress has the sitting MP and BJP has fielded Manoj Tewari. How are you going to tackle it?
This country you see, has very recently gone through Vidhan Sabha elections where there was a sense of disbelief about the potential of AAP to challenge the grand old party, Congress and the rising force of crony capitalism, BJP. Now there is a new moot. Congress is facing severe anti-incumbency right from the central government to local parliament member and they have very little show to win the votes. There has been no performance all over the constituency in the last 5 years. As for BJP, they are trying to depoliticize the elections by bringing a non-political person who contested from SP ticket in the last Lok Sabha. His engagement with the local constituency is quite remote as he has been brought from Mumbai and no film personality so far has been a successful parliamentarian as it requires total focus for the constituency which is very difficult for a working Mumbai artist.
The constituency is a judicious mix of Muslims and OBC population with each of them having more than 20% shares. Is class and caste strategy the key to win here?
Our call for Aam Aadmi’s issues makes these categories not so central in political mobilization. The questions for water, electricity, sewage, hygiene, security, health, education and transport appeal across caste, religion and gender categories. We have mobilized these people in the last two years into a citizen vs. VIP framework and that makes it more relevant than thinking in terms of socio cultural identities.
The Purvanchali population has been campaigning towards BJP because Manoj Tewari is one of the better known faces. Do you think a celebrity can sway the elections in his favour?
It is the wrong assumption because out of 10 assembly constituencies, 3 of them have been led by our leaders who come from Purvanchal. BJP has no monopoly over them. Purvanchalis are also sub categorized into people from eastern UP, central Bihar and Mithila. BJP’s hold over Purvanchal is a myth.
There is very little scope to be attracted to a celebrity if you are hungry, ignored, deprived, and underdeveloped. There is only a minor cultural space where happy and affluent people can think of voting for a celebrity who has no political record in the past and has very inconsistent ideological stands.
You come from an academic background with a connection to UP. Please tell us about your formative years and your alma mater.
I come from Varanasi, and I belong to a family of freedom fighters and socialist leaders. My own socio political engagement began as a student of BHU in 1960s. The last 5 decades I studied sciences and sociology at BHU where I was gold medallist. Then, came to JNU and from there with a national fellowship award I went to do a PhD in sociology from university of Chicago in USA. I have been teaching Sociology at BHU and I have been at JNU for the last three decades. In between, I have been a visiting faculty in various countries of Europe. I have also taught in the United States, Argentina and I have been very actively associated with sociology, studying challenges of underdeveloped, power and social justice. It has made me an active academician in local, national and global movements for change. I am at the moment, president of Indian Sociological Association.
Your manifesto focuses a lot on development of the constituency and tackling other daily issues. What is your grand strategy for the region once elected to power?
In democracy, development is the essence for a forceful administrative society. And the country has been deprived of the gains of industrial revolution because of colonialism and now we are missing the opportunity of going ahead because of the togetherness of communalism and corruption at high places. This area is the largest district of the Delhi state with largest number of working people. It is a district which has been deprived for some strange reasons, of basic facilities. It requires a holistic thinking to go for better policy and ground water management, electricity facilities, sewage and cleaning of the streets, transport as well as city system. But the biggest challenge is in the field of education, health and employment arrangements. Unless there is a holistic reform of education provisions and facilities to be provided in general and then for a college for women for their higher education as well as a new eastern campus of Delhi University, the efforts of education will remain inadequate. Enough attention has to be given to the problems of preventive healthcare, as well as facilities as it affects the life chances of infants, children, women, working women and old age people. There is a need to provide skill training centres to this area where member people are engaged as productive labour in a variety of industries ranging from garments to small tool production. The rural component of this constituency needs a different orientation about the diversification of agricultural practices as well as engagement of agro industrial programs to make their life better and happy.
As the national spokesperson of AAP, could you give us an update on the overall progress of the party and the numbers you are expecting in Lok Sabha?
The party started as a group of few hundred thousand volunteers around the country who were engaged in campaigning for Jan Lokpal and then after the Vidhan Sabha elections of Delhi, we moved towards enlarging our membership. Within a fortnight, we grew from a party of less than a million members in 1st week of January to the party with more than a crore members as on 26th Jan. This enlargement of our social base has given us much more energy and human resource base to go for a very large scale engagement in Lok Sabha elections. We have become the third largest party of the country after INC and BJP in terms of members and presence in Lok Sabha elections. Some of the most respected names from civil society, business, academia and social action groups have accepted to become our candidates. A very large number of well-motivated young men and women have joined our campaign in various parts of India from J&K to Andaman Nicobar and Arunachal, as volunteers and campaigners. There is definitely a sense of disbelief in a section of media for well-known reasons, but on the ground, nearly all communities, casts and age groups have come forward to give us a chance.
What, according to you, are the aspirations of the people in your constituency?
In North East Delhi, people have a sense of absolute deprivation except for a few pockets. The country is moving rapidly towards 21st century as a knowledge society and the society which is going to use IT revolution for a better tomorrow. But in this constituency, water, electricity, decent schooling, proper healthcare systems and livelihood skill building are missing. This constituency is asking for support to catch up with the rest of the capital as it looks like a bimaru part of Delhi since a long time. The people of Delhi are looking for corruption free governance. The people of North East Delhi are looking for freedom from corruption, crony capitalism, communalism and future crises.