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  Metros   Delhi  26 Feb 2018  ‘Kejriwal has not understood the way Delhi government should function’

‘Kejriwal has not understood the way Delhi government should function’

THE ASIAN AGE. | SANJAY KAW
Published : Feb 26, 2018, 12:30 am IST
Updated : Feb 26, 2018, 1:24 am IST

Delhi is not a full state; it is a Union territory. Both land and police are not under the jurisdiction of Delhi government.

Former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit. (Photo: Sondeep Shankar)
 Former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit. (Photo: Sondeep Shankar)

Three-time Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit is of the strong view that if the present imbroglio between the bureaucrats and the AAP government is not sorted out, the city may head towards an administrative paralysis. In a conversation with this newspaper’s correspondent Sanjay Kaw, she said it was high time that her successor Arvind Kejriwal began to deliver on his poll promises, otherwise he may not be able to recover the lost ground. Excerpts from the interview:

The assault on Delhi chief secretary Anshu Prakash by two AAP legislators has led to a situation where the national capital could face an administrative crisis. The AAP narrative is that the BJP-led Centre is not allowing it to discharge its duties. Even you, in your book, Citizen Delhi: My Times, My Life, have touched upon the difficulty of running the government in Delhi because each time you needed land, you had to take permission from the Centre.

Let me put the record straight. We fully understood Delhi. But chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has not understood the functioning of the Delhi government. Delhi is not a full state; it is a Union territory. Both land and police are not under the jurisdiction of Delhi government. In many decisions, including those on transfers, we require concurrence of the Centre. It is the duty of the government to adopt things for the welfare of its citizens. But the AAP government is functioning against the welfare of Delhiites. We can have the chief secretary of our choice but the same has to be accepted by the Centre. Here, we have landed up in a situation that can lead to total administrative paralysis. You cannot treat your officers the way the AAP is treating them. If you want to change the chief secretary, you need to give reasons to the Centre. The Centre never forces its decisions on the state administration. It is high time that corrective measures are taken so that there is no constitutional crisis.

You worked with both former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and his successor Dr Manmohan Singh. Did you face any problems while dealing with them?

Never. I had a very positive working relationship with both of them. That’s why we got so many projects approved. The job of the government is to make policies and it is for the bureaucrats to implement them. Both the Centre and the state have to work together for the welfare of its citizens.

How can the imbroglio between the bureaucrats and the AAP ministers come to an end?

I believe they are reading the situation to find a workable solution. The current mess has to end. Whatever has happened in Delhi should not become a role model for other states.

Back to your book. What inspired you to pen this book?

I have had a long career, so I thought it was time to pen down my experiences.

In the chapter titled In Campaign Mode for Delhi, you share a candid insight into your 1998 election campaign for the Delhi Assembly. And how keeping away those accused in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots worked in your favour?

The anti-Sikh riots took place because of emotional reasons. Indira Gandhi had been killed by her bodyguards. People were in a state of shock. Punjab was in a state of turmoil. The Golden Temple was taken over by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. We had to flush out armed people from the religious place. So the government had done its job but it backfired. And denying tickets to suspects of the anti-Sikh riots worked in our favour.

In your autobiography, you have also talked about overcoming your shyness to campaign for elections, “walking down the lanes of Chandni Chowk, beating a thali with a rolling pin.”

My family belongs to Chandni Chowk in Old Delhi. My mother was from Kapurthala so I am a mix of Punjab and Delhi. I never lived in Chandni Chowk but visiting Chandni Chowk was a sentimental trip. I could easily relate myself with the place. And we won this seat as well.

Tell us how your debate with Union minister Sushma Swaraj, who was then the CM of Delhi, turned into an important point in the Assembly campaign.

During campaigning, Sushmaji told the audience that after she becomes the CM of Delhi, she would keep awake during the nights to visit police stations for better law and order, to which I had remarked that the police wasn’t under the purview of the Delhi government. This was widely appreciated by the audience.

What is your take on chief minister Arvind Kejriwal?

Frankly speaking, I am unable to understand him. I don’t understand what he says or does. He had promised new buses. Where are those buses? He made so many poll promises but nothing has materialised at the ground level. Already 98,000 students have left government schools while Rs 1,982 crore lapsed in the last two years in the education sector. There is no Jan Lokpal as promised. The Metro fares were raised twice in a year while Metro-IV projects seem nowhere in sight. To top it all, as many as 1,273 DTC buses have been taken off roads. Not to forget that 111 dispensaries have already been closed.

Do you want to say that only the Congress government had implemented development projects?

Of course, yes. We added 3,125 DTC buses to the fleet, opened 12 bus depots, constructed 193 km network of Metro, opened 141 Metro stations, constructed 75 flyovers, laid 4,308 km roads as also 12 universities and 22 general education colleges were opened. We undertook the overall development of the city. We even increased green cover of the city. We introduced CNG. We also privatised power distribution.

Any suggestions to Mr Kejriwal.

No, nothing

Back to your party politics. You have joined hands with Delhi Congress president Ajay Maken to take on the AAP in Delhi...

There is new energy and new determination in our party workers and that’s why all of us have come together which will make a huge difference. And those who have written off the Congress will regret soon.

What are your views on new Congress president Rahul Gandhi?

He is taking the job entrusted upon him seriously. We have already seen the results in Rajasthan and Gujarat elections. He is on the way to become a great leader of our party.

What about Prime Minister Narendra Modi?

He has made scores of announcements and has been making one promise after the other. But there is a big question mark on his deliverance. I am trying to understand him.

I remember in your first-ever interview with this correspondent as the CM of Delhi, you had said that the Bhagidari scheme was very close to your heart. But the AAP government has done away with this scheme and replaced it with mohalla sabhas.

I strongly feel people’s involvement in governance is very essential. Priorities of different places are different. One colony may need drinking water, another may need a children’s park. So we need to get this feedback from our citizens and deliver accordingly. We got awards for this scheme from the United Nations, the Commonwealth and from Singapore. Today, I feel pained that the scheme has been scrapped.

What is your take on the governance model of Mr Kejriwal.

They advertise more and do nothing. It’s high time they start delivering on ground.

Now by-polls have been necessitated in 20 Assembly seats.

This will be a real test for the Aam Aadmi Party.

But let me assure you, the Congress will perform exceedingly well in the by-elections as the Arvind Kejriwal government stands exposed before the people of Delhi.

Who is your number one role model in politics.

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. What India is today is just because of his policies. I strongly believe in Nehruvian philosophy.

I request Prime Minister Narendra Modi to read history to understand what Pandit Nehru’s contribution has been for our country.

Tags: sheila dikshit, arvind kejriwal, prime minister narendra modi, congress