Former Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Shazia Ilmi, who joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Friday, spoke to HT about her new innings.
What went wrong between you and Arvind Kejriwal?
I was so close to him but at one point I had to take an appointment even if I had to talk to him over the phone. I felt the party did not need me anymore. The experience has been so traumatic that I don’t want to contest any election now. I am writing a book about my bitter experiences.
Being a Muslim, what are your views on conversion?
I spoke to the senior leadership of the party, including Arun Jaitley and Amit Shah. I myself enquired about dharm parivartan and ghar wapsi issue. So I was told very clearly that these are not BJP sponsored, endorsed programmes. Ghar wapsi is essentially a tribal issue. Forcible conversions do not have a place and I don’t endorse forcible conversion. They (senior leader) were very clear that the new political discourse has to be about development. There is a change of image and perception and I did see a change. I do have a Muslim name and I am joining the BJP.
Minorities are kept in a state of constant fear. The Congress and the Samajwadi Party pretend to be there messiah. We all expect Narendra Modi to speak but we never ask Arvind Kejriwal why candidates with criminal records have been fielded by the AAP.
Why it took you so long to decide on joining the BJP? There had been talks of you joining the BJP when you participated in the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan but you joined the party at the last moment.
Change of heart has not been sudden. I was disenchanted from a long time but I left the party only after the election. It took me six months after resigning from the AAP to join the BJP. I could have joined earlier. I was genuinely impressed and inspired by some of the new policies and new initiatives of this government, such as the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.
Will you contest the elections? If yes, then what will be the issues you will talk about?
I am not a ticket seeker. I hope the party will respect my decision. I believe that you don’t have to be an MLA or MP or a minister to do social work. We don’t have to contest necessarily to work for development. It is sad that real things never get talked about. For instance public toilets is an important issue. Women get raped only because there are no toilets.