Arvind Kejriwal: We have called Congress's bluff;
if they withdraw support, they'll be the villains
Image: A wall clock carrying a portrait of Arvind Kejriwal inside the Aam
Aadmi Party office in New Delhi
NEW DELHI: 25-12-2013
Arvind Kejriwal was an atheist. He turned a believer some time back. You
can almost understand why - how could a fringe movement for an anticorruption law turn into such a huge movement unless god was on his
side? After Delhi, he's drawing up plans for the 2014 Lok Sabha election.
And he's brimming with confidence. TOI's Neha Lalchandani met him on
Wednesday at his residence for an exclusive interview. Excerpts from a
free-wheeling conversation on a host of issues.
Congratulations on your stunning victory.
(smiles) Thank you. It's the people's victory.
Yours was so far a movement, but now it's a political party. What does
this transformation mean to you?
When we were in the movement, we were pleading with the government
over and over again to legislate the Lokpal Bill, but it didn't respond.
Gradually we realized that the character of the present system is such that
petitions wouldn't work. If they are the problem, they can't take action
against themselves - they're steeped in corruption and would never pass
the Lokpal Bill. Therefore, we have now entered politics. Annaji used to say
that politics is keechar (muck). We have now entered the keechar to clean
it up ourselves. We know we don't have a magic wand which we will wave
and correct everything. Nor do we have the knowledge to solve all the
problems. But we do know that if all of Delhi's 1.5 crore people get together
and want to do something, there is nothing that can't be done. Collectively
we can, together we can. Five-six ministers or a handful of bureaucrats
can't solve the problems of Delhi. Secondly, there is the question of niyat
(intent). Congress and BJP don't have it, but our intentions are good and
we will find solutions to problems.
It's not possible that everyone who entered politics came with the
wrong intention. Is there something about politics and power that
That's a fair point. First, all those who have entered the system entered as
individuals. In Congress, for instance, there might be one or two good
ministers. But Congress as a party, is a corrupt party. In contrast, AAP is a
party of upright people and the entire team is coming in with a good intent.
But if we think that we can provide good governance in the present system,
that's not possible. The system will soon overpower us and we will get
sucked into it. So, we will have to change the system completely and for
that our solution is swaraj. We will have to implement a system that no
longer depends on individuals but works by itself. Why do we have to
approach MLAs for ration cards, cleaning waste or improving roads? These
things should happen on their own. When there is decentralization, when
governance is in the hands of the people, at least colony-related issues like
water, power, parks, medicines and schools will get solved.
Initially, you said you didn't want to take the support of Congress. But
now you have. What changed?
We don't have an alliance with Congress in Delhi. They have offered
support and we are ready to take it, but it's not an alliance. When Congress
suddenly claimed it would give us outside support, they also started
criticizing us for not taking on responsibility, while claiming our promises
can't be fulfilled. Many of our supporters started questioning us. Then we
asked for 10 days' time and decided to go back to the people. We had no
idea that there would be such overwhelming opinion for us to form the
government. I personally did not want a tie-up and would have liked a reelection. But we respected what the people said. Our supporters feel that if
Congress takes back support now, they will be the villains.
It now appears that Congress is quite uncomfortable with the fact that
you're forming the government. Is it because you called their bluff?
Yes, we called their bluff. They have given their support and we will take it
at face value and implement our manifesto for which people have voted for
Including probes into issues of corruption that might involve the
Yes, we will implement our manifesto.
Has Rahul Gandhi called you up? Or any other senior Congress
There has been no communication. I had written one letter to the Congress
president and they responded to it. There has been no further
communication or phone calls.
How does your swaraj actually work?
The first step is legislation. The law has to be drafted. We have invited S C
Behar, former chief secretary of Madhya Pradesh, to Delhi to act as an
advisor and help us in drafting this law. He is an expert on decentralization
and tried to implement something in MP but the government in power then
did not allow him to do so. He is coming to Delhi this evening and will stay
here for the next few months. Drafting the law is probably the easy thing.
Getting the law passed in the Assembly will be our biggest challenge.
Once that's done, the next step is implementation. Delhi has 272 wards.
Each will be divided into an average of 10 parts. That gives us roughly
2,720 mohallas. Demarcating the mohallas on the map will be a huge
exercise. Assets like roads, lanes, dispensaries, primary schools, etc., will
have to be transferred to each mohalla. Each mohalla will have a small
secretariat with one or two employees after which there will be local
elections to chose a representative. His only job will be to convene monthly
meetings and to get decisions implemented through the local Mohalla
sabha secretariat. This entire exercise should take us six to eight months.
But you may not get 6-8 months...
I can't say how long this government will last because it will be there on
their (Congress) support but whenever it falls and there will be re-election, I
see AAP winning that with an overwhelming majority.
Your good intentions apart (which is your claim), how is AAP different
from the personality-driven Congress or an ideology-driven BJP?
I really don't know how ideology driven BJP is because both BJP and
Congress have the same ideology: corruption. In that sense, AAP stands
out from both these parties. We have already been transparent about our
funding, we have fought elections in a very tight budget.
Your movement is now mass based. Mass movements draw all kinds
of people. How can you say that everyone in AAP is a person with the
You had earlier asked me about our movement now becoming a political
party. Frankly, the party itself is a movement. We have won this election
because of our volunteers. There are so many people who have left their
homes and jobs to work for us. It's not a political party in the conventional
sense. If people with the right intent enter the system and change it, only
then can such a movement have permanence. There are systems that
work around the world and we need to bring in a good system into the party
and into governance. The system itself will then filter out the wrong kind of
people. We screened our candidates thrice before confirming their
nomination but there should also be systems in place to weed out the
wrong kind of people. Office bearers are also checked. But everyone is
welcome to be a party worker. We have no checks for them.
You have said that your promise to provide 700 litres of free water will
be fulfilled within 24 hours of your assuming office. How?
We did not promise to make water available to everyone, we promised to
make 700 litres of water free to those who have water connection. For this
only an executive order is needed. The real problem is distribution. Each
colony has different kinds of water issues that will have to be looked into.
For instance, Ambedkar Nagar, Sangam Vihar, Mehrauli and Devli can get
water from the Sonia Vihar treatment plant. A pipeline passes close to
these areas and from what I know, a pipe network has been provided in
these colonies. It's only a matter of connecting them with the main pipeline
and maybe building an underground reservoir. The reason why this work
has not been done is because a huge tanker mafia is operating in these
areas, and both Congress and BJP are involved in it. It is a business of
hundreds of crores.
And how will you cut power tariff by 50%?
We do not have the exact calculations for this. There is, however, evidence
of a lot of wrong doing in the books of power distribution companies. In
2002, when privatization took place, it was said that there were losses of
60% in power distribution in Delhi. And that after privatization, these losses
would come down, revenue would go up and accordingly power tariff in
Delhi would fall. Today, distribution losses have come down to 15%. This
45% reduction in unmetered, unpaid electricity translates into thousands of
crores. Where has this money gone? Far from tariff coming down, it has
gone up threefold since then. This needs to be audited. Secondly, in 2010,
discoms declared losses of Rs 630 crore but when their accounts were
checked, it was found that they had instead made a profit of Rs 3,577
crore. Thirdly, both discoms, BSES and NDPL, have created sister
concerns from whom they purchase equipment. In the 2010 order, they
have shown a bill of Rs 1,200 crore on purchase of equipment that actually
cost Rs 800 crore. These sister concerns are also a front to create artificial
losses. For instance, one discom purchases power at Rs 6 per unit and
supplies it to one such concern for Rs 2.70. Why are they buying this
surplus power and transferring the losses to the people of Delhi? Last year,
DERC had checked 15,000 connections. Out of these, 10% were shown to
have zero billing in the discom's account. When consumers were
questioned, they claimed to have paid bills. So if they have paid, but the
discoms are showing zero billing, where did the money go? All this raises
serious questions about their accounts which need to be audited.
But how will you audit these companies? CAG tried but the high court
did not give permission as they are private companies.
An audit is possible as per the CAG Act. We are already working on how
this audit can be done. I can't tell you how, but this audit is possible and will
It's said that before the Delhi assembly introduces a bill in the
assembly, it has to be referred to the Centre for its nod. If that's so,
how will you pass the Lokpal Bill or create mohalla sabhas?
The Constitution says that Delhi Assembly can legislate on state subjects
with certain exceptions. If the state has to legislate on a subject that is
repugnant to an existing Central law, then that will need the President's
assent. However, in August 2002, the transaction of business rules was
changed in Delhi by an executive order, which now says that the Delhi
government has to first get a new law approved by the Centre before it can
be introduced in the Assembly. This smacks of colonial times when London
had to clear laws. Now, how can the transaction of business rules
supersede the Constitution of India? It can't. The kind of swaraj model we
have in mind will certainly need the Centre's nod but we will seek that only
after passing the law in Delhi Assembly. Under swaraj, we are practically
taking away all power from the state and handing it over the people.
And the Centre will approve your new law?
Let's see. If it doesn't give approval then the chief minister of Delhi and its
people will sit on dharna outside the home ministry!
How seriously are you about the 2014 Lok Sabha elections?
There is very strong buzz about AAP across the country. Hordes of people
are coming for our meetings. There may be some rural areas, where media
outreach is absent or restricted, where we might face a problem. We have
decided that we will field candidates where ever we find worthy people.
Therefore, it's not possible to say whether we will contest 20 seats, 200 or
400. The hunt for good people has started.
But you've already announced that you will contest all 26 seats in
No, we haven't decided so far. Some local AAP enthusiasts might have
said that, but as a party we haven't decided.
In Delhi you had a team which was able to identify good candidates.
How will you replicate the exercise when you extend to areas where
you don't even have a support base?
The party has a strong network across the country that will find out about
Will you tie up with like minded organizations like the Lok Satta party
in Andhra Pradesh?
We are already in touch with many of them.
Now that you are eyeing a national election, you must have policies other
than corruption. What's your foreign policy or your economic policy? Your
referendum model certainly won't work here... We are working on our
policies. On foreign policy, we would of course like to have friendly relations
with all our neighbours, and be on equal terms with all countries. You are
right...referendums can't be used to decide subjects like currency, foreign
policy, banking etc. And mohalla sabhas will have to work within existing
systems of law. They can't, like khap panchayats, issue illegal orders. Then
the law will kick in.
Surveys say that many people who voted for AAP in Delhi would vote
for Narendra Modi in the Lok Sabha election. Now that your party has
aspirations for the Centre, what message will you put out?
(smiles) We have plans. Let's wait and watch. There are five months still
left for elections. And five months is a very long time in politics.
In the next five months you are likely to get tied down in Delhi. How
will you campaign across the country in the coming polls?
What we achieve in Delhi will affect people in every village in the country.
When Delhi holds its assembly session in Ramlila Maidan, it will fire the
imagination of the whole country. If Delhi does away with the lal batti
culture, people in other parts of the country will ask their ministers to follow
our lead. When I refuse to stay in a bungalow and live in a flat, it will be
expected out of other leaders too that they live like the aam aadmi. It's by
our performance that we will campaign in the Lok Sabha election.
You were once an atheist. Now there's Ganapathy in your room as
well as a picture of Shirdi Sai Baba. What made you a believer once
Yes, I was once an atheist. But look at our movement in the last three
years. Is it possible to go from where we were to where we have reached
today without divine support?
With people's support...
Of course, with people's support. But that wouldn't have come unless there
is also a divine role
Arvind Kejriwal asked to prove
majority by January 3
Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung has directed Aam Aadmi Party leader
and chief minister-designate Arvind Kejriwal to prove majority of his
government on the floor of Delhi assembly by January 3.
The direction came after President Pranab Mukherjee conveyed to Lt
Governor Jung that Kejriwal be asked to prove his majority on the floor of
the House within seven days from the date on which he takes oath of
Kejriwal will take oath on Saturday along with six other AAP MLAs who will
be part of the cabinet.
Sources said a session of the assembly is likely to be called from January
"The President has directed that Kejriwal may be asked to prove his
majority on the floor of the House within seven days from the date on which
he takes oath of office," senior officials in Delhi government said.
They said the President has appointed Kejriwal as the chief minister of the
National Capital Territory of Delhi with effect from the date he is sworn in.
The AAP has 28 seats while the Congress with eight has agreed to give it
outside support. The Bharatiya Janata Party is the single largest party with
31 seats in its kitty. The party had declined to form a government citing lack
of majority in the 70-member assembly.
The date for the swearing-in ceremony was finalised at a meeting Kejriwal
held with the Delhi Chief Secretary D M Spolia. The cabinet ministers to
take oath along with Kejriwal are Manish Sisodia, Rakhi Birla, Somnath
Bharti, Saurabh Bhardwaj, Girish Soni and Satendra Jain.