Conspiracy to force me to quit as CM... but I will not resign: Arvind Kejriwal | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Conspiracy to force me to quit as CM... but I will not resign: Arvind Kejriwal

May 23, 2024 07:11 AM IST

Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal campaigns at a gruelling pace, confident of winning. He criticizes PM Modi on local issues, inflation, and unemployment.

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, 55, has struck a gruelling pace on the campaign trail, perhaps to make up for the time he lost while incarcerated in Delhi’s Tihar jail -- he is out on interim bail and has been asked to return to jail on June 2. Kejriwal, also the head of the Aam Aadmi Party, has maintained that the INDIA bloc, of which the AAP is a part, will form the government this time. In an interview with HT, he explained why he thinks the BJP will lose, talked about the battle for Delhi and his newfound bonhomie with the Congress, and clarified on the political role of his wife Sunita Kejriwal, among other issues. Edited excerpts

Arvind Kejriwal, chief minister of Delhi, at his house in Civil Lines on Wednesday. (Sanchit Khanna/HT Photo)
Arvind Kejriwal, chief minister of Delhi, at his house in Civil Lines on Wednesday. (Sanchit Khanna/HT Photo)

You have been saying you’re confident about winning . What makes you think the results will be different this time?

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This time, the election isn’t being fought on the [Narendra] Modi factor, but on local factors -- on issues that impact daily lives; inflation, unemployment. This election has become very local, and so this time, it’s a different election in every state. People are unable to run their households, to pay their fees, to buy their groceries. People are complaining that they haven’t heard Modi ji give a solution for this or talk about how he will solve unemployment in any of his speeches. What is he talking about? He’s saying “Sharad Pawar is a bhatakti aatma (wandering spirit)”, that Uddhav Thackeray isn’t the real son of his father, that INDIA bloc will steal everyone’s mangalsutra if they come to power. Is this talk worthy of a Prime Minister? People want solutions from him which they aren’t getting. It seems as if the PM is completely cut off and is in his own world.

Also read: Swati Maliwal's 'irony died' dig as Kejriwal breaks silence on assault row

The BJP points to their free ration scheme and housing scheme in response to such criticism.

If my son is sitting unemployed at home with a degree, giving me grain is not doing what I need. Good students are being forced into (casual) labour because they can’t get jobs. And grains don’t solve all your problems like paying fees for your children, buying vegetables or travelling. So if your gas bills, diesel bills, grocery bills, are all skyrocketing, free grain won’t help. Secondly, it’s also evident that this time BJP isn’t fighting as a team. They have too many internal problems. Recently [party president JP] Nadda ji said that we don’t need the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamseval Sangh; the BJP’s ideological parent). This isn’t a small statement. The RSS isn’t fighting this time, it is sitting out, which means that there’s been some serious rift between the two. It could be part of the succession fight. They (the BJP) got rid of Shivraj Singh Chauhan, Vasundhara Raje, ML Khattar, Devendra Fadnavis, and now it’s time to get rid of Yogi ji (UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath) . Do you think they will all stay quiet? Modi ji and (home minister) Amit Shahji’s style of working is something that the entire BJP is upset with.

Also read: Arvind Kejriwal hails power supply in Delhi amid record demand, jabs BJP-ruled UP, Haryana

Amit Shah said in a Delhi rally that other than the excise case, there are other cases worth 98,000 crore which are coming up against you which will send you back to jail?

Their intention is very clear. Till now they have lodged 250 cases against us, out of which 125 have resulted in nothing in court. In many, the courts have also slammed the agencies, so obviously, all the cases are false. Their star case is the excise case in which they haven’t made any money recovery. Their only objective is to stop our work -- if you lodge a case, then officers get scared and our work gets delayed. Our party’s biggest strength is our work and it’s been talked about across the nation, from free electricity to great schools and mohalla clinics which give free treatment. This is why the AAP gets traction and that’s why we won Punjab and did well in Gujarat. To stop all this, they keep lodging one case after another. I just want to say that once the INDIA government is formed, the electoral bond scam with its many aspects will be probed. How they gave bail to people in return for bonds as bribes, each of those electoral bond donations is a separate case. We will start an inquiry into this within the first 100 days of our government.

But INDIA bloc parties also got money?

The money we got , if there was a scam, do you think they would have spared us? Our donations are neat and clean. Their donations need to be probed which will happen now.

Do you think the voter is really concerned about the electoral bond issue? Voters are watching and talking about the fact that these people have put Kejriwal in jail without finding a single paise, while they have got 8,000 crore (from electoral bonds). Where has that come from? They couldn’t recover any money despite putting me and Manish Sisodia (Delhi’s former deputy CM) in jail, they couldn’t recover anything. Even a kid can figure out that it’s all fake.

For the first time you are fighting an election with the Congress and the BJP calls it unnatural. Do you think it is working on the ground?

We had some problems to begin with, but slowly they are all getting sorted and there is considerable synergy between the two groups of workers. This election is not on the basis of parties, it is an election to save the nation. If Modi and the BJP return, these people will be like Putin in Russia, putting all opposition leaders in prison or getting them killed. He then declared elections and won . Similarly, in Bangladesh,Sheikh Hasina also put all opposition in prison, declared elections and won. In Pakistan, they put Imran Khan in jail and snatched his party and symbol. Modi ji wants to do the same in India. So this election is to save democracy and not an AAP and Congress election.

Rahul Gandhi’s statement about voting for AAP while you vote for Congress was significant. Did you ever imagine this?

We will all do whatever is necessary to save the country.

Why didn’t it happen in Punjab though?

It wasn’t necessary in Punjab because the BJP is non-existent .

But all top Congress leaders such as Amarinder Singh, Preneet Kaur are now in BJP?

Nobody will vote for them. That’s why we are fighting separately there.

We hear there is an understanding in some seats?

Even if that’s true, I don’t think I’ll be revealing it in an interview (smiles).

What’s the reason then that the INDIA alliance seems more settled as you see it?

People are all realising that if we don’t fight together then nothing will be left. I’m not making fantastical claims, I can give it to you in writing that if Modi returns, Mamata ji will be in jail, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi will also be in jail, Stalin saheb will be in jail, Pinarayi Vijayan, Uddhav Thackeray, Sharad Pawar, Tejashwi and Akhilesh will also be in jail. He will then hold elections. That’s what Hitler did and got 90% votes.

Do you think the voters buy this narrative? And of a changing Constitution?

If you speak to people, they’ll tell you that they are unhappy about their own problems. And the other thing they are worried about tyranny. We haven’t done tyranny, they have. So, this time, it’s a vote against tanashahi (dictatorship).

Because of your arrest?

The arrest also contributed to this. And all the people they inducted into their party, against whom they had alleged crores of scams, they made into ministers. Do you think the people of this country are stupid?

We saw your wife addressing rallies. BJP has called it an example of dynastic politics..

Why do you take BJP so seriously?

What about her future in politics?

She has no political ambitions and doesn’t want to be in active politics and doesn’t enjoy it. She has just been a solid support in my life. You are seeing me now as a Delhi CM but there was a time when I left my Income Tax job and wandered around Delhi’s jhuggis for 10 years. She supported me even then when it wasn’t easy to back a mad husband who quit his job. She had to come to the forefront because I was in jail. In some ways she acted as the bridge between the public and me. She would take messages from me and relay them, and tell me what was happening over here.

Was that your idea?

There was no idea. It wasn’t a well-thought-out strategy, it was a natural reaction and response. It worked, that’s all. She just said that she was very tense. She never thought that she’d have to play such a role and she’s always been away from active politics. She has no interest; this was just temporary.

How was jail? As CM , jails come under you and ironically, you were lodged there

Inside jail, they made maximum effort to break me and humiliate me, emotionally and psychologically. For 15 days they didn’t give me insulin. The nursing officers that came to see me would measure my sugar levels which ranged between 250 and 350. I told them that I’ve been taking insulin for the last decade or so but they said that they are just monitoring. When they didn’t give it to me for a couple of weeks then I got suspicious. That’s when I told my wife and she raised an alarm. That’s when they started giving me insulin. In the jail manual, it says that jail superintendents can allow well behaved inmates to have one-on-one meetings in their rooms. I can tell you that all political prisoners in Tihar till now have had meetings in their rooms. When Bhagwant Mann asked for time to see me, he wasn’t allowed that and we met through the wire mesh like you see in the movies. It was obviously to just insult and humiliate me, no other purpose. There were two CCTVs in my cell, whose feed was supervised by 13 officers (according to what insiders told me). Imagine, if you are monitored 24 hours, it’s very difficult to live. There was one day when my wife asked to meet me for a second time as rules allowed it but she was denied. My security guards told me that they (the officials) would constantly ask if I was getting emotional or crying, whether I was depressed. But I just read a lot, read the Gita twice over, read the Ramayana and lots of political history books and did lots of meditation.

In Indian political history, going to jail can be a badge of honour?

Now that I am out, it certainly seems so, especially with the response of the people... People believe that a wrong thing has been committed and people are very angry.

While you were in jail the LG stated that the government will not be run from jail. What happens when you go back to jail on June 2?

Their only goal is that I should resign. BJP is unable to defeat the AAP in Delhi. We formed government thrice with historic mandates twice. They know they can’t defeat us and that is why this conspiracy has been hatched to put me in jail and force me to resign so that the government falls. I will not get trapped in this conspiracy. I will not resign. If they have jailed democracy, then democracy will run from the jail.

The legal position is that I am not guilty and no order has been passed against me so I can fight the MLA election. If I can be an MLA, I can be a minister or chief minister. If law permits me to be the chief minister, I should be provided all facilities to function as the chief minister. We will approach court after this and seek these facilities

ED is handling all these alleged corruption cases. The current ED director Rahul Navin is coincidentally your batchmate. Have you two spoken?

He is doing his work and I am doing my work. We have not spoken at all.....It is a coincidence. He is doing his work and I am doing my work. We are on the opposite sides...I have never tried to [contact him]

From 2014 till now, more than 300 opposition leaders have switched sides.The AAP has also faced this and for various reasons people have left your ranks and gone over to BJP. What will INDIA do about this?

Give me Enforcement Directorate just for 24 hours and all BJP leaders will be on our side. It’s only because of threats from ED... they have made an ED law under which they arrest you without being held guilty and no bail is granted. This was not the law of this country. Earlier, If an FIR was filed, investigation would be carried out, case would proceed and order would be issued to hold someone guilty. The person was jailed after the court held them guilty....They made a law in which everyone named in FIR is arrest at the stage of FIR itself. He is kept in jail till he is found to be innocent by the court. In our country cases proceed for over 20 years, Should Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia be kept in jail for 20 years?

This law was made by Modi ji to completely finish off the opposition. All my political predictions have come true. They will arrest the entire opposition. No one will be spared and one day the journalists, who are trying to be independent, will also be jailed.

Former UP CM and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav has suggested that if INDIA block comes to power, ED should be disbanded. Do you agree?

We will talk about all these things after the election. Let us win the elections first.

What do you feel about the election commission’s role in this election?

I campaigned for my party. I was arrested. The bank accounts of Congress were frozen. Sharad Pawar’s party and Shiv Sena have been bifurcated. Stalin saheb’s ministers have been arrested. Mamata ji’s ministers have been arrested. Where is the level playing field? Should we fight the elections or should we be busy fighting these cases?

EC now belongs to Modi ji. Modi is perhaps the most insecure Prime Minister that India has ever had. He wants his own chief election commissioner, his own judges, he wants control over all agencies. This will lead to total dictatorship and anyone will be able to arrest anyone without any recourse.

So as an opposition leader do you think EC is not being fair?

Not at all. EC is not even providing voter turnout data. This is very serious matter....Why are they not putting up 17C forms on the website on the same day. Everyone has this doubt.. I don’t know if it is right or wrong but everyone has doubts that something wrong is taking place.

EC has said that all the polling agents have these numbers in response to Kharge ji’s letter?

What problem is the Election Commission facing in uploading it. Why only political parties? But if a common man wants to see the 17C form to check number of votes, why can’t they tell him? It is EC’s job to compile the data...

The BJP says that you’ve won all your elections under the same EC?

[(We have won] despite all this....they are being unfair.

Do you suspect a fraud in these elections?How would we know .. data is not available. This is such a basic data. they should put it up the very next day. It is a very basic data...I hope the Supreme Court (on 24th May hearing) directs them to put all 17C forms on the website... there should be no doubt remaining in minds of people. It is not good for democracy and people should have faith in the system.

Many people felt that people in your party were not vocal in your support when you were jailed. Your Rajya Sabha MPs -- Harbhajan Singh, Raghav Chadha, Swati Maliwal -- were not to be seen. Were you disappointed?

What about rest of the people? Party is just not about two or three people. There were thousands of people from our party who were on streets..

What will the chain of command in your absence after you go to jail?

There is no need to worry. It will operate smoothly. Things have operated well in last one-and-half months and it will continue in future as well.

We are sitting in your residence from where we saw those dramatic visuals of Swati Maliwal. The opposition has said that Arvind Kejriwal should make his stand clear on Swati Maliwal. What would you want to say on this?

The matter is subjudice and investigation is on. Whatever I say may impact the investigation. I would like to avoid making any comment. Let an honest investigation take place .

Will she continue as your MP?

I will not like to comment on anything right now. Let justice be done.

You started your work from NGO formed a party and got these mandates in Delhi and later Punjab. After this Lok Sabha election how do you see the future of this party?

AAP is not longer a party of four people. AAP is an idea now. If PM believes that he may be able to crush this party, he is mistaken. AAP has believers/followers in crores of people who want the party to be successful. Even if Kejriwal is not there tomorrow, the party will remain and its works will spread across the country.

Take our offices and bank accounts. People will give us hundreds of offices and fill our bank accounts.

You say you see seeds of rebellion in BJP. How do you justify this statement?

There was this interview of JP Nadda ( BJP chief) where they have said they don’t need RSS. Is Vasundhara Raje happy that she has been removed? Shivraj Singh Chauhan, Raman Singh have been removed. Are they happy? The election is like a war and you need support of your soldiers from the bottom of their heart...not through enforcing power over them. They are not working for you with their hearts.

I said that Yogi ji would be removed and not a single BJP leader countered this statement. In such a situation, how can they work like a team? They have power but people in their party do not appreciate this.

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