The Indian Express | 1 month ago | 07-10-2022 | 11:45 am
Chandrakant Raghunath Paatil was appointed as the Gujarat BJP president in July 2020. A confidant of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Paatil, 67, is considered to be the most formidable leader in the state BJP under whose leadership the saffron party hopes to break the Congress’s 1985 record (149 of the total 182 seats) in the upcoming Assembly polls. On his part, Paatil has set his target at the maximum level: all 182 seats.Paatil’s tenure at the helm of the state BJP recently saw a change of guard in the BJP government with Vijay Rupani replaced by Bhupendra Patel as the Chief Minister overnight and the subsequent stripping of key portfolios of two ministers in the new government.A few days ago, Paatil asserted that Patel will be “repeated” as the CM after the state Assembly polls, slated for December, as he has done “good work”. He also said that PM Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah would decide the ticket allotment to party candidates for the polls.Paatil is known to have been a key player behind several major decisions taken by the state government, including the recent rollback of the Gujarat Cattle Control (Keeping and Moving) in Urban Areas Bill 2022, whose passage in March had set off massive Maldharis’ (cattle rearers’) protests across the state. The first word on the government’s rethink on this Bill came from Paatil after his meeting with a delegation from the Maldhari community.Similarly, it was Paatil who announced that the controversial Par-Tapi-Narmada Yojana in tribal areas of South Gujarat, which had triggered huge tribal protests, will be scrapped.Paatil, who is also a three-time MP from the Navsari constituency in South Gujarat, holds the record of winning a parliamentary seat by maximum margin ever in the country.The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which has emerged as a new challenger for the BJP besides the existing arch rival Congress, had bagged 27 seats in the February 2021 civic body polls in Surat, Paatil’s home turf. The AAP has since been targeting Paatil over various issues including his Maharashtrian origin.Born in Pimpry Akaraut village of Jalgaon district of neighbouring Maharashtra, Paatil, or “CR” as he is popularly known, is the first “non-Gujarati” to lead the BJP in Gujarat. A class XI dropout, Paatil has a degree from the Industrial Training Institute (ITI) as a turner. As per his 2019 Lok Sabha election affidavit, he had one criminal case of breach of trust and cheating pending against him. By occupation, he is a farmer and a businessman.Paatil’s father, who was a police constable, shifted in 1951 to South Gujarat in the then undivided Bombay Presidency. Paatil, like his father, joined the Gujarat Police as a constable in 1975, and was forced to resign in 1984 for attempting to “unite Police Constables under one roof of a Union”, as per his website.He joined the BJP in December 1989 under the leadership of former PM late Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and launched a Gujarati daily “Navgujarat Times” in 1991 from Surat.The Gujarat High Court has been hearing a PIL filed by former Leader of Opposition Paresh Dhanani which states that the Remdesivir injection Paatil distributed from the BJP office in Surat during the Covid-19 wave was “illegal”. Paatil’s website claims that he procured these injections “directly from the Pharma Company and distributed them”.
NASHIK: The body of a 9-year-old boy with his right hand and little finger severed was found near the Manmad-Daund railway tracks in Maharashtra's Nashik district, leading to residents of his area protesting seeking capital punishment for those involved, a police official said on Friday. Lokesh Sunil Sonawane had gone missing on the evening of November 30 while out on a rented bicycle, and a search for him for several hours in his Eklavya Nagar locality was in vain, after which a police complaint was filed, he said. "We found the body of the Class IV student on Thursday morning in the thicket near a filtration plant along the Manmad-Daund railway tracks. The right hand and the little finger had been cut off. There were scratches on the face as well," he said. The case is being probed by the railway police, in whose jurisdiction the body was found, and Manmad city police, where the missing complaint was filed, he added. Meanwhile, angry citizens held a protest on Thursday night and even stopped traffic on the Indore-Pune highway for some time seeking capital punishment for those involved in the death of the 9-year-old boy.
Mangal Prabhat Lodha is a quiet man. At the BJP headquarters here, his colleagues say that the Cabinet minister operates silently — not flaunting his power and always speaking to a select group of people. The image of quiet efficiency is quite different to the public persona of a firebrand Hindutva votary and this combination helped the former Mumbai BJP chief become a member of the Eknath Shinde-led government. At present, he holds the portfolios of tourism, and women and child development.On Wednesday, Lodha lit a political firestorm by comparing 17th-century warrior Shivaji’s historic escape from the Mughal court in Agra with Shinde’s defection from the Shiv Sena that led to the fall of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government in June. The comments came at a time the BJP was looking to move past the row Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari had triggered two weeks ago by calling Shivaji an icon of olden times. Koshyari’s remarks put the BJP on the defensive and it spent the subsequent days parrying the Opposition’s attacks, but the optics surrounding the Lodha episode is worse as the comments came at an event that the CM attended.Shinde, along with his Cabinet ministers, were in Satara on Wednesday to celebrate 363rd Pratapgad Din, the state government’s annual celebration of Shivaji’s assassination of Afzal Khan, a commander of the Adil Shahi dynasty of Bijapur, at the foothills of Pratapgad Fort. “Shivaji Maharaj who was held hostage escaped from Agra by dodging Mughal emperor Aurangzeb … Shivaji escaped from Agra for swarajya (independence) Similarly, Chief Minister Eknath Shinde was also confined by somebody. But Shinde also came out from confinement in the larger interest of Maharashtra …”Amid backlash from the Opposition, the BJP left Lodha to deal with the fallout and none of its top leaders defended him publicly. Party insiders said the leadership had categorically told everyone to exercise caution while speaking on historical events or people. The BJP has now chosen once again to distance itself from the row and allow it to fizzle out. A senior BJP general secretary said on the condition of anonymity, “Sometimes, it is better to remain silent when some reaction boomerangs against our party and leaders.”Shinde, however, appeared to back his minister even as he underlined that nobody could be compared to Shivaji. Trying to defuse the tension, the CM said, “Lodha has allocated Rs 25 crore for Pratapgad Fort. Shivaji Maharaj is deeply revered and worshipped by one and all. Shivaji cannot be compared to anybody.”Aware that he had slipped up, Lodha attempted damage control by explaining he had never meant to insult Shivaji. Late Wednesday evening, the minister said, “I have not done anything wrong and did not insult Shivaji. I deeply respect Shivaji Maharaj. I was just citing some examples which have been wrongly interpreted. We often give Shivaji’s examples to children. It does not mean we are comparing them or insulting Shivaji.”Son of former Guwahati HC CJILodha, who is one of the richest state ministers with declared assets worth Rs 441.65 crore, is from Rajasthan. He arrived in Mumbai in the 1980s after completing his BCom and LLB degrees from the University of Jodhpur. His father Guman Lal Lodha was the chief justice of the Guwahati High Court. After initially practising law, Lodha ventured into real estate and founded Macrotech Developers (Lodha Group).Since his student days, Lodha was associated with the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the students’ organisation affiliated to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). He made his debut in electoral politics in 1995, when he contested the Assembly elections for the first time. At present, he is a six-term MLA from the high-profile Malabar Hills constituency in Mumbai.The minister has often used the public forum at his disposal to speak about issues such as cattle slaughter and undocumented immigrants. He has spoken about the alleged threat Hindus face in the Muslim-dominated Malvani area of Mumbai.During a state Assembly debate last year, Lodha said, “There is a pattern to this Hindu exodus. They are being threatened and intimidated to leave their houses. A concerted attempt is being made to evict them. Just like Kashmir, Kairana witnessed the exodus of Hindus. Malvani in Mumbai is also witnessing the same.”On cow slaughter, he has said in the past, “There should be capital punishment for killers of cows and cattle. Cow slaughter should be punishable by death and beef export should be banned.”During campaigning for the 2019 Assembly polls, the Election Commission served Lodha with a show-cause notice for making a communal statement. While campaigning in Mumbadevi, the BJP leader said, “The explosives used in the 1992 Mumbai riots were made in bylanes five km from here.” The Mumbadevi neighbourhood has a sizable Muslim population.
The Bombay High Court will hear on December 6 the bail plea of former Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh in a corruption case lodged by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).On Friday, a single-judge bench of Justice Makarand S Karnik said that it will hear Deshmukh’s plea on merits from December 6, after concluding that the matter can be heard on priority considering the health grounds raised by the petitioner.Last week, the bench had adjourned the matter after the CBI counsel had urged the court to do so as Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Anil Singh, who was to appear for the central agency, was unwell.Senior advocate Vikram Chaudhari, appearing for Deshmukh, submitted that the central agency was delaying the hearing in the case and sought an earlier date for hearing the bail plea. He pointed out that the 72-year-old NCP leader has been in custody for over a year and was suffering from various ailments. The bench had posted the matter for hearing to Friday, December 2.The CBI, in its response to the bail plea, had told the high court that granting bail in the Enforcement Directorate (ED) case cannot be a ground for release on bail in a corruption case filed by it.Last month, Deshmukh had approached the Bombay High Court, seeking regular bail in the CBI case after the special court rejected his bail application. The special court had said that the statement of the accused-turned-approver, dismissed police officer Sachin Waze, plays an important role at the stage of bail and cannot be overlooked.On October 4, a single-judge bench of Justice N J Jamadar of the Bombay High Court had granted Deshmukh bail in a money laundering case filed by the ED. The High Court had observed that prima facie, reliance could not be placed on Waze’s statement.Challenging the special CBI court order, Deshmukh, in his plea filed through advocates Inderpal Singh and Aniket Nikam, claimed that the trial court erred in refusing bail to him and that its order was mere “cut, copy and paste job” of contents in the CBI chargesheet. It added that the “approach adopted in the trial court order was perverse” and while the high court had considered his medical status while deciding his bail plea in the ED case, the trial court overlooked the same.The central agency, in its response, had said the statements of Waze recorded under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act could not be equated with his statements recorded before the magistrate under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code in the CBI case.The ED probe into Deshmukh’s financial transactions is in line with a CBI probe into former Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh’s allegations of corruption against the NCP leader. The CBI initiated a preliminary probe based on the April 5, 2021, high court order and registered an FIR on April 21, 2021.
Visit one temple and they may question your religious credentials, visit several, and it might cease being an issue. As part of the Bharat Jodo Yatra, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has been making high-visibility halts at shrines, particularly temples, appearing with vermillion on his forehead often, putting out pictures bowing to deities, posting videos of interactions with priests and, in an icing on the cake, sharing a photo that shows him prone in sashtang pranam at the Mahakaleshwar Temple in Ujjain.The Ujjain temple incidentally is one of the prominent shrines developed, and celebrated, under the BJP rule in the state and Centre. Just over a month ago, a Mahakal Temple Corridor was unveiled with much fanfare in a ceremony attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.आज उज्जैन में, शिप्रा नदी के तट पर बसे ज्योतिर्लिंग, भगवान महाकालेश्वर की आराधना करने का सौभाग्य प्राप्त हुआ।जय महाकाल। pic.twitter.com/DMtKRyjFkS— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) November 29, 2022The BJP has kept up its attacks on Rahul for the temple run. On Thursday, Madhya Pradesh Culture Minister Usha Thakur said: “My humble prayer is that no spiritual activity should be made a medium for political gains. These activities are an integral part of our life. You go to temples, it is welcome, but you should also understand the importance of offering prayers and darshan of the deity.”Campaigning in Ahmedabad’s Vasna for the Gujarat polls, Union Minister Smriti Irani said: “They (the Congress) are now reminded of the Hindu dharma because they are losing elections and understand that if they humiliate dharma and Hindus, they will not get a single vote from (people of) this religion.”Unlike this election, when Rahul has made just one visit so far to campaign for the Gujarat elections – in a break from his Bharat Jodo Yatra – the Congress leader had canvassed extensively in the 2017 polls, including making a series of temple visits in the state. The BJP had mocked Rahul then too, though that election saw the Congress give the ruling party a scare.Accusing Rahul of “putting up a pretence to prove his Hindu lineage”, BJP IT cell head Amit Malviya tweeted: “Rahul Gandhi is as much a Hindu as Arvind Kejriwal is honest… Make no mistake, this is just a tactical retreat, with electoral compulsions in mind, nothing else.”Sharing a video of Rahul performing aarti at Omkareshwar temple in MP, Malviya said: “If only ‘chunavi Hindu’ Rahul Gandhi knew that aarti is done clockwise and there is a scientific reason for it (earth moves in a clockwise direction and hence environmental frequencies are in sync with movement), he would not be making a spectacle of himself in public like this.”(Viewed from the North Pole, the Earth actually moves in a counterclockwise direction; from the South Pole, it appears to rotate clockwise.)Rahul Gandhi, son of a Catholic mother and a Parsi father, should stop this fancy dress drama in Hindi heartland.When in Kerala or TN, he never bothered to visit a single Hindu temple. Visited minority religious places though.His beliefs change depending on electoral maths… pic.twitter.com/zj0Gh2PZkW— Amit Malviya (@amitmalviya) December 2, 2022After his visit to the Mahakaleshwar Temple in Ujjain Tuesday, Rahul accused the BJP government of disrespecting “workers, farmers and small businessmen — the real ‘tapasvis’ akin to Hindu gods Shiva, Rama and Krishna”.Vermillion on his forehead, Rahul peppered his speech with references about Hindu gods and the Bhagawad Gita. “The Hindu religion teaches us to worship ‘tapasvis’… so why are they not worshipped?… The government does not give them anything, it gives everything to those who do puja of Narendra Modi,” he said. “Those who worship Modi, they get everything they want, railways, ports, airports, roads, power, water… everything.”The Omkareshwar and Mahakaleshwar temples are among the 12 Jyotirlinga sites in India, associated with Lord Shiva.हिंदुस्तान हमेशा से तपस्वियों का देश रहा है। आज, प्रधानमंत्री करोड़ों हिंदुस्तानियों की तपस्या का अपमान कर रहे हैं। pic.twitter.com/urn3poFciu— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) November 29, 2022In October, during the Bharat Jodo Yatra’s Karnataka leg, Rahul reached out to members of all three main faiths — Hindu, Muslim and Christian — in Mysuru by visiting the Chamundeshwari Temple atop the Chamundi Hills, the Masjid-e-Azam and the St Philomena’s Cathedral on the same day.Sharing pictures of the temple on Twitter, Rahul said: “Religious harmony is the foundation of India’s peaceful and progressive future.” The Bharat Jodo Yatra’s stated aim is to unite the country against “hate” and “discord”.A day later, he visited a prominent mutt of the Lingayat community, the most powerful voting group in Karnataka.Entering Maharashtra on November 9 from Telangana, Rahul paid a visit to the Nanded Sahib gurdwara, one of Sikhism’s holiest shrines, on the occasion of Guru Nanak Jayanti. On its official Twitter page, the Congress shared a video of Rahul praying wearing a headscarf with the Khanda symbol and someone wrapping a Dastar around his head. He prayed for harmony and equality, the party said.In September, soon after he had taken off from Tamil Nadu, Rahul met controversial Tamil pastor George Ponnaiah. After videos of their meeting emerged, the BJP attacked Rahul.
How is the BJP placed ahead of MCD elections, especially considering that you have been in power for 15 years? How big of a challenge is anti-incumbency?We are winning very comfortably and this argument about anti-incumbency is something that the Aam Aadmi Party is desperately trying to claim about us. The fact is that we benefit at multiple levels. First of all, we benefit from the Prime Minister’s immense popularity and that’s not just what he’s done for the nation or the international acclaim. 73 lakh people in Delhi got the benefit of the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana.We also benefit from the party led by Nadda ji all the way down to the last worker. During the pandemic throughout the country, party workers helped well over a quarter of a billion people with community kitchens, oxygen help with hospitalisations etc.And then there’s a lot of work that has happened. For example, several large biodiversity eco parks have come up.AAP itself has immense anti-incumbency. They’ve been in government eight years and there’s an old saying that you can fool some of the people all the time, all the people, some of the time, but not all the people all the time. So, in recent months, especially in the last one year, a lot of their fakery has been exposed. Their claims about being a different kind of party are completely in shambles with the many corruption scandals. Their two most prominent promises were to clean up the Yamuna and to reduce pollution and every Delhiite will tell you that just the reverse has happened. Despite thousands of crores of funding from the Modi government, the Yamuna has got even more polluted and Delhi’s pollution is such that every family, irrespective of economic status, has one or more members suffering from various ailments. The evidence for what I’m saying is two-fold. You saw the immense enthusiasm and rush for tickets for BJP.On the other hand, you’ve had huge scandals in AAP where tickets have been sold. Their own workers are coming out with sting videos. People of Delhi are convinced that AAP is a party willing to swindle its own workers and certainly, it has no compunction swindling the people of Delhi. I don’t go into numbers.AAP itself has immense anti-incumbency. They’ve been in government for 8 years and there’s an old saying that you can fool some of the people all the time, but not all the people all the timeAAP and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal have shared some numbers, like 225 seats…I will comment on some of Mr. Kejriwal’s numbers like the fact that with just a couple of exceptions, his party lost its deposits in Uttarakhand, despite his party making huge claims about how they are going to sweep. Now they’re making claims about winning a huge number of seats in Gujarat. They are in a desperate shape in Gujarat. AAP’s seat projections are about as credible as the promises of cleaning the Yamuna.Talking about Gujarat, how do you see AAP’s attempts to replace the Congress in some states?AAP’s claims and promises and attempts at inspiring their workers are based on falsehoods. As long as it was limited to Delhi, they were able to fool some of the people all the time, but now within just a few months, Punjab has exposed them. Yesterday, you saw riots in Punjab by the same farmers activists with whom they were supposedly collaborating just a year ago. Till last year, they used to blame Punjab for the stubble burning for the Delhi pollution. Now, there’s no excuse. They’re trying to obfuscate by saying that other states burn stubble but well over 90% of the stubble burning in North India happens in Punjab. Stubble burning in other states, like Haryana, has dropped dramatically in the last few years. And also because of their fiscal irresponsibility today, Punjab government employees are not getting paid. They took a bad situation and made it much worse. So, what’s happening is they have to keep seeking new pastures, to try to fool a new set of people.But Punjab’s fiscal situation is not their making…They’ve taken a bad situation and made it far worse because of their fiscal profligacy. Punjab is heading the Sri Lankan way. Just look at what they have done in the last few months. You see front page advertisements all over the country. You see the Punjab dummy CM and the AAP leader all over the country based on the money from Punjab and Delhi. That is fiscal profligacy. That is worsening the situation. In Gujarat you’ve talked about their hard-working workers. I gave you the example of how their workers in Delhi are turning against them.You are aware that in Himachal and Delhi, senior people are quitting and joining us. You’ll see the same situation in Gujarat soon when many of the people and their workers who had been working in the false belief that AAP represents something new and better, are going to get equally disappointed.Evidence from studies shows that the contribution of farm fires in Delhi’s pollution has dipped this year for a variety of reasons. AAP says it has done a lot to curb fires. How do you counter that?AAP, just a couple of weeks ago, apologised in public for not being able to curb pollution emanating from Punjab. You’ve cited one study, I can cite to you a couple of other properly, authenticated studies. A central government compilation of studies has been released by the Delhi L-G’s office which shows that Punjab accounts for, by far, the lion’s share of stubble burning. And they had promised that they would immediately curtail it. Now, the other states have curtailed. Not only Haryana, but other bordering states have had very dramatic reductions, but AAP which had committed to curtailing it this season itself has publicly apologised.A large number of MPs, union ministers and CMs have been campaigning in Delhi for BJP, and AAP has cited this to imply it’s because the BJP-led MCD doesn’t have much to show for its work.This is the same old argument and obfuscation that they try on many fronts. If you look at the BJP’s elections, in every election we roll out all the available armoury. And we have a lot of armoury to roll out. Since the last time, we have more Chief Ministers, we have more prominent faces in the union cabinet, and we have more regional leaders that are attracting attention. There is a demand because in Delhi today, demographics have transformed in the last 10 years. You have lots of people living in Delhi today, who come from Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Odisha and Bengal. They want to see their own leaders come here and enthuse them because they have a connect with them because of language and culture. Let me reiterate, BJP does not take any election lightly. First of all, we don’t just turn up at elections. Every week of the year, virtually every day of the year, we have some or other public activity interfacing with the public, either in social work, helping them during crises, or in political rallies and outreach. And at election time, we always take every election seriously and we turn out all our big guns. The reality is that AAP, like almost all other parties, is a one-man party. They don’t allow any leadership to come up. It’s a personality cult. Whatever leadership they have tried to build up are mostly in jail or about to go to jail. So, they have serious problems. We are a party that nurtures talent. The Prime Minister himself came from a humble background and is today repeatedly acknowledged as the world’s most popular leader.AAP, obviously, feels the pressure of not being able to counter our campaign with similar personalities. So, this is a way of trying to obfuscate.Allegations of BJP being a one-man party have also been made in the past…In the first question, you asked how come we are rolling out so many big guns. How come Himanta Biswa Sarma, Pushkar Dhami, Jairam Thakur and other leaders like Nadda ji, Sambit Patra are doing so many roadshows and meetings. Then you are asking about BJP being a one-man party. The reality is that the BJP is not only the world’s largest party, it is also the world’s most democratic party. I know, because as the in-charge for Delhi, I’ve been involved very intricately. Let me tell you how the candidate selection process has worked. We were working virtually 24/7 for several weeks. We had extensive exercises at the mandal level, where our mandal workers gave their opinions. Then we had an exercise at the district level. Then we had an exercise at the state level. We took feedback from everybody from the lowest level at the karyakarta level, the mandal level, and the district. And then at the MLA level and the MP level. And we also did extensive surveys in deciding who are the popular leaders. We have done a very extensive survey which shows us that there is immense satisfaction among the workers about the candidate selection. On the other hand, you have seen no such process in AAP. You have seen sting videos by their own workers… There is absolutely nothing wrong with the party benefiting from the Prime Minister’s popularity. The Prime Minister himself, let me repeat, came from a very humble background. The same allegation was made when Atal ji was at the peak of his popularity, that we take advantage of his popularity, what about others? Modi ji came up from the ranks and he has this global popularity today. Why should we not take advantage of it? And yes, of course, at the local level issues are being discussed and debated. Yesterday, in my campaign, I talked about the Delhi Jal Board scandal. The Delhi Jal Board finances were not audited for many years run by AAP. And there is a huge scandal of many thousands of crores. A large number of homes in Delhi get very polluted water and people are reacting very severely against that. I’ve also mentioned several other local issues, which our candidates and district leaders are taking up. But to say that somehow, we should shield the people of Delhi from Modi ji’s popularity is not rational. Every election has a mix of national, regional and local issues. The people of Delhi are very cognisant that when it comes to national interest, even when it comes to Delhi’s own interest, the central government has done a lot.When a senior leader of the Aam Aadmi Party is in jail for 5 months, the courts are not giving him bail because of, prima facie, evidence of money laundering. And he’s getting five-star treatment and he’s getting a massage from a child rapist. And they’re trying to fob it off as some kind of physiotherapy until it is caught that the guy’s not a physiotherapist but a child rapist and they’re not dropping him from the party. This is a local issue. This is a self goal which they have created in a very big way. Modi ji is not talking about this. We are talking about this. We are talking about this, the Delhi leadership is talking about it. Delhi candidates are talking about it. AAP says that the guy should be given a Bharat Ratna.How much traction are these issues gaining on the ground?There is enormous traction. AAP candidates and workers are quitting and joining us. Who do you think is giving us these sting operation videos? They are sourcing it because of their bitterness with their party. When the Satyendar Jain massage video came out, AAP stopped doing press conferences. They didn’t have a response to it. The liquor scam which has been going on where the personal assistants of very senior leaders have turned approver have been caught with hundreds of crores. They’re not able to respond, they’ve not given a single answer. They’re trying to obfuscate, but they’re not giving a single answer, why they gave liquor contracts to blacklisted companies. Why they allowed the contravention of rules to allow liquor vends near schools and temples and in prohibited zones.How do you see AAP as an opposition party?My view is that their gig is up. They have been trying to portray themselves exactly like this for the last three or four years, they’ve been badly battered. In Uttarakhand you saw. In Himachal their top leadership has quit and joined us, in Gujarat, despite what they are saying, you will see the results very shortly. They represent something very different.BJP is nationalistic. It is fiscally responsible. It has brought immense development to India. In the global perspective, India is the shining light among all economies which have been battered by the pandemic, everybody’s talking about it. The IMF is talking about it. The world is looking to India and to Modi ji’s leadership as a sign of hope. We have transformed from a country that always sought help from others to a country that has been giving help to others. During the pandemic, we have given 200 million vaccines to other countries. We have helped them with many other things, like medicines and ventilators.AAP is like the 1970s version of Congress. Congress spent many decades talking about garibi hatao and only increased garibi. It is under BJP that hundreds of millions of people are getting out of poverty. People have seen what has happened to Sri Lanka. People have seen how India has had to step in and help neighbouring countries. Not just Sri Lanka, but others. In the last eight years, they have not added a single hospital. In eight years, they did not add a single bus to Delhi’s fleet until under severe pressure they tried to add some electric buses, and that too has been caught up in a scandal of corruption. Old buses are breaking down. So, a 1970s version of Congress cannot become the BJP’s alternative or opposition. Their gig is up because of what has happened in the other states where they have tried to take the same message. Punjab’s voters were because of the mismanagement of Congress rule and they grabbed at whatever they thought was a different alternative. But it’s turning out to be a much worse version of that.If Punjab voters were desperate for change, why did they not vote for BJP?The BJP had alliances with people that themselves got unpopular and the BJP has a track record of never having dumped an ally and perhaps we should have been more pragmatic about that earlier. Now the BJP is building on its own. Wherever we have been betrayed by allies, whether it is Maharashtra, whether it is Punjab, or Bihar, we are building up on our own and you will see the results. Punjab is already seeing the chaos. People regret going for AAP.Some people try to portray that it is the middle classes who are weary of AAP’s profligacy and fiscal irresponsibility. I can tell you that even people of weaker economic category are also getting very wary because today, even if you go to the remotest corner of the country or you go to economically weaker sections of society here in Delhi, they know what’s happening around the world. They may have been initially excited about some free water but today you can see the water that they’re getting is grossly polluted. The BJP works on addressing the economic needs of people. We do understand that there are people of the weaker economic sections that need housing and support. Just a couple of weeks ago, the Prime Minister released about 3,500 flats under the Jahan Jhuggi, Wahin Makaan scheme. In the last few days, many hundreds of buses of people who reside in jhuggis have gone to see these flats and the enthusiasm is enormous. A lot of people have the misperception that people from the weaker economic strata have a preference for AAP. You are going to see a very big difference this time.You have not spoken about AAP’s Hindutva, the way they are trying to take up the cause of the majority.I think the public understands the difference between genuine conviction and fakery. AAP tries to be different things to different people at different times. When you have JNU students who openly shout anti-national slogans, who openly support convicted terrorists, AAP is with them. When you have riots in Delhi, where people are getting convicted for killing government officers, of organising riots, of arson, AAP’s own representatives are among them. They realised this is costing them very badly and in the last few months, they have been going around claiming to be nationalists and holding the Tricolour. People are not fooled. Today if you go around the temples in Delhi, you’ll see immense anger against AAP because they have been facilitating funding for one group of religious institutions but not temples. It is very much like Rahul Gandhi. As I said, they are trying to be the B team of the Congress.Rahul Gandhi has done the same thing. He goes around berating any nationalistic stand that Modi ji takes and goes around questioning the Indian Army about surgical strikes. He goes around having meetings with the Chinese Embassy when there is a border conflict and then at election time he wears the tilapia, he becomes a Shiv Bhakt, he starts taking a pretend nationalistic stand. People have punished that repeatedly and reduced the Congress to nothing and the Aam Aadmi Party is basically following in that same path of trying to be a chameleon and changing colours at election time and they’re getting caught very badly with their pants down.Till. A few months ago, there was a debate about AAP promoting the revdi culture but it now seems to have completely disappeared from the discourse. BJP doesn’t mention it in its MCD rallies even. AAP too has stopped defending itself over it.It is there in our pamphlets and in some of our literature and you are right. It is because the people of Delhi have started accepting that the revdi culture is going to lead them towards becoming like Sri Lanka. The people of Delhi have understood that revdi equals free water, equals really dirty polluted water equals making children sick. Yes, we took it up and it has had immense impact and it has been accepted by the people of Delhi. Now, since this is a goal we have already scored, it is time for us to score more goals. That is why we are now emphasising on other aspects. AAP has stopped countering that because we have registered a goal. You can’t keep protesting a goal after the goal has been registered by the referee. You can protest as long as we are dribbling that you are offside or something like that. Once the goal has been scored, and the referee adjudicates it as a valid goal, there’s no point protesting it. They should be highlighting it.They are. CM Kejriwal listed out free water and power schemes in his speech yesterday. AAP doesn’t seem to have backed down on that front.The BJP has taken a very strong stand on this. That the free water, free electricity etc has led to people getting very very upset. They are very clear that their children are having to breathe polluted air. Their children are having to drink extremely polluted water. We have highlighted the fact that when AAP does some events allegedly tacking pollution, the vast majority of the expense has gone to advertising. The actual expense on whatever they have tried to do is just a very miniscule part of it. So it is just a show. They showcase their schools but it’s just one or two schools which they have prettied up and painted and are trying to show now. They managed to get some international media like The New York Times to give them some credit for this. The same New York Times has now criticised them very severely for the pollution, where they have failed. People are realising this. If you go around, you’ll see two things about schools, and this is relating to the revdi culture. You will see that the Delhi state government schools have reduced in number in the last eight years. The municipal schools have increased in number. If you look at the schools that AAP is highlighting, it is the same one or two schools. I can take you around various parts and show dozens of MCD schools that are of a very high standard and are getting a great deal of praise. MCD schools are the ones that a majority of Delhi’s population go to. The revdi politics has reached a level of diminishing returns for them. But we are focusing on pollution, we are focusing on corruption. This is something we have known for a while but the people of Delhi have just begun to understand this in the last one year.For MCD elections, the main issues for people are that of garbage, sewer lines etc and not larger issues like corruption. In the BJP manifesto, most promises are old.I dispute your comment that people don’t care about corruption. We have highlighted the issue of corruption regarding Satyendar Jain and Manish Sisodia. They are not answering questions about that. Because of corruption, there is no cleaning up of the pollution or the Yamuna. I’ll reiterate that local issues matter and of course we are addressing them. One issue is that the AAP government sat on Rs 42 thousand crores of Central funding and deliberately refused to disburse despite court proceedings.Talking about Delhi BJP, you have been out of power in the state government since 1998 and infighting has been a big issue within the party. Do you think there is a lack of a credible face in the state unit that is hurting you?At the Lok Sabha level, we have a clean sweep, all seven out of seven seats. At the local election level, we have won three times in a row and by every indication, we are comfortably coming to a fourth victory. About the state government situation, I won’t go into the distant past, but just the last eight years, which has seen the current dispensation. I think the Aam Aadmi Party got a huge boost from many people who thought he represented something different and he got a lot of free publicity about alleged good work, which positioned him as some kind of an alternative.But like I said, you can’t fool all the people all the time. And that one-trick pony has served its purpose of making fake promises, moving on to new sets of promises without delivering and thinking that people won’t notice. In terms of not having a face, that is exactly what used to be said when Atal ji was Prime Minister. How did Modi ji come? Because we have 18 crore members and we encourage talent to rise to the top. In Delhi, we have the luxury of several prominent faces. We have very senior faces. We have young faces, we have popular faces that have come from outside of politics. We have women’s faces, we have very homegrown, earthy faces representing different sections of the demographic. To somehow consider this a weakness is very odd because at the right time, we will choose the right person. We have plenty of options to choose from and this is a strength. It’s not a weakness.