Hours after being announced the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate in Delhi, Dr Harsh Vardhan spoke to Hindustan Times about his election agenda, the infighting in the party and the threat from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). Excerpts from an interview:
Do you think the decision has come quite late in the day, changing horses at the last minute? What repercussion will it have?
Of course not. The announcement was made around 12 noon and in just two hours, people knew the BJP had a chief ministerial candidate. There has been no delay. It is the party workers and the party who contest elections, not individuals. We will first win Delhi and then we will free the nation from the Congress.
Don’t you think mobilising support within the party and getting Vijay Goel on board will be a tough task?
We already enjoy each other’s support so the question of mobilising support doesn’t arise. There is no infighting in the party — this is a misplaced apprehension on the media’s part. I am the chief ministerial candidate and he is the Delhi unit’s president. The post has been occupied by many others earlier too, including myself and Vijender Gupta. The aim is to emerge victorious in the Assembly polls.
AAP has termed you the Manmohan Singh of BJP who doesn’t speak. They have accused you of praising the CM you will be competing against.
I am the chief ministerial candidate of the party for Delhi and not the PM candidate. Does the AAP see in me the capability of being a prime minister that it is calling me the prime minister? As a party, we don’t indulge in character assassination. This is a very low-brow kind of politics. I was invited to a book launch, which was about the Capital, and all I had said was I respect the chief minister. I had not commented on her administrative quality or on her style of governance. I had written the foreword of the book and quite naturally I had gone there.
It is being feared that AAP will create trouble for the BJP in the elections which will benefit the Congress. Do you view the party as a threat?
I have full faith in the people of Delhi and that they won’t waste their votes on AAP. People know the only party that can give them an honest regime is the BJP. They (AAP) are indulging in petty politics and will not last.
What is your agenda for the elections?
The pride and glory of Delhi have been affected and tarnished under the Congress rule and we need to reinstate that. We are promising a corruption-free government and will strengthen the institutions to fight corruption, including the Lokayukta which is a toothless tiger, and introducing an accountability commission.
Your competition is Sheila Dikshit who has been the chief minister for the past 15 years.
Our fight is on the level of ideology as we want to give a transparent government. They have been in power for three terms but it doesn’t mean they are better than us. They had better luck. It is not that they had done any work.
What are your main election issues?
Price rise and corruption are two major issues that have affected the middle-class. The Congress has failed on every front, right from providing safety to women, education, shortage of doctors and even medicine. The poor has been hit the most as the public distribution system is in a shambles.
Elections are not far off. How are you going to campaign?
The ways and mechanism will stay the same, including door-to-door campaigns. We will use the publicity medium and the social media to connect with people. Technology will be a crucial part of our campaign.
Where will you contest the elections from?
Krishna Nagar, quite naturally.
What is the one thing you feel remains to be done in your constituency?
I have done everything and people are very happy. However, parking is still an issue.