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AAP is a hope-giving force; to strengthen it is my duty: Rajmohan Gandhi
The Congress is seen as belonging to the khaas (special) people, while significant sections feel threatened by the Bharatiya Janata Party, says Rajmohan Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, and the Aam Aadmi Party candidate from East Delhi. In an email interview with Indulekha Aravind, Gandhi explains what drew him to AAP, why Arvind Kejriwal might be the right choice for prime minister and why Narendra Modi’s efforts to build a statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, intended to be the world’s largest, is hardly a fitting tribute to the statesman. Excerpts:
What drew you to the Aam Aadmi Party? Which of its policies do you identify with?
AAP’s uncompromising focus against corruption, its commitment to politics from below and its pledge of transparency pulled me. Across the country, talented young persons have put aside precious careers to volunteer for AAP, which seems to have emerged not only as the party of the future and the youth, but, uniquely, as a party for all Indians of any and every class, caste, religion, language and region.
Once upon a time – a long time ago – the Congress was such a party. Today the Congress is seen as belonging to khaas people. BJP enjoys great support in many parts of India but significant sections of our people have felt threatened by it, and many view it as the party of the rich. To me AAP seemed a force rising (precisely when needed) from the dharti (soil) of India, and a party which any Indian anywhere in the land would feel comfortable belonging to. To strengthen such a hope-giving force seemed to me my duty.
AAP has now announced that you will be its candidate from East Delhi but there were reports earlier that you might contest against Narendra Modi?
Delhi is where I have spent the biggest portion of my life. I feel privileged to receive the AAP ticket for East Delhi. I harboured no plan to contest against Modi.
Your books include a biography of Sardar Patel. What is your view on Modi’s plan to build a giant statue of Patel?
The Sardar never wished to be taller than his colleagues in the freedom struggle. He wanted to add stature to others. A gargantuan statue of Sardar Patel as proposed by Modi would be wholly contrary to his life and legacy. We can honour Patel without provoking a competition in statue heights from admirers of other exceptional figures such as Shivaji, Ambedkar or Subhas Bose. A spacious, beautifully-designed and environment-friendly park would be a finer memorial for one who, among other things, was keen on raising flowers.
If elected as an MP, what changes would you like to bring about?
For East Delhi, I would like to address priority needs in consultation with voters and their representatives. If elected, I will aim, with due humility, to restore Parliament’s damaged prestige and assist in cleansing and strengthening our institutions of governance. AAP is likely to possess a powerful bloc in the Lok Sabha which will oppose corruption, back policies that benefit people and stand foursquare against any attempt to move the nation away from its principles.
Do you, like AAP, feel corruption is the single biggest issue impeding India’s growth? Or is that an over-simplification?
Corruption, along with price rise, annoys the Indian citizen more than anything else. It has turned the citizen into a supplicant. It has disgusted decent Indians. And it has killed fair competition, which growth requires. As I see it, AAP strives to promote honest enterprise and competition along with fighting corruption and seeks to establish citizens rather than politicians, bureaucrats or the immensely rich as the nation’s rulers.
Do you feel Arvind Kejriwal would be the right person to become the prime minister?
In three years, a virtually unknown individual has been transformed into a household name eliciting the kind of question you ask. This is remarkable, although those able to recall young Kejriwal’s persistence, patience and determination while organising communities in different Delhi localities and obtaining ration cards for the neglected will not be totally surprised.
Because of television and the Internet, several of Kejriwal’s qualities are now known to the Indian public. He seems utterly fearless and capable of facing shocks. He is sharp in debate and appears to possess mental and physical stamina.
I believe he can carry any responsibility the nation might thrust on him. Of course, he is a human being, made of the same clay as everyone else. I pray that this exceptionally gifted human being finds the deep resources and honest teammates needed to carry the load of expectations, praise and blame that he (and they) will now receive in mounting measure.