‘Delhi lacks teachers, doctors, power is still hit in parts... If you’re CM, be a visionary’

Harsh VardhanBJP CM candidate for Delhi, Harsh Vardhan accuses Sheila Dikshit of being “casual”. (IE Photo: Deepak Shijagurumayum)
In this Idea Exchange, BJP chief ministerial candidate for Delhi Harsh Vardhan accuses Sheila Dikshit of being "casual" towards the city's problems, and says his party is ahead of both the Congress and AAP. Senior Assistant Editor Ravish Tiwari moderated the session.

Harsh vardhan: My opening remarks relate to what I feel about certain issues. Mrs Sheila Dikshit has been a very fortunate chief minister. In her 15 years of rule, her approach has been a little casual. Otherwise, we could have solved many issues in the city. But most of the 15-year-old problems still exist. Look at hospitals and schools — there is shortage of thousands of teachers, shortage of thousands of doctors and paramedical staff and essential medicines. We were promised uninterrupted power supply at the time of privatisation, but 10 years on, the power supply is not uninterrupted. We were promised high-quality equipment for improving the power sector, but nothing has happened. To erect one street light pole in my constituency, they will ask me for funds from my MLA quota. In her 15 years as the Delhi Jal Board chairperson, the DJB was plagued with a huge corruption case, which was first pointed out by Congress MLA Jagdish Anand 10 years ago. He had even gone to the Lokayukta, which had made adverse remarks about the CM. Besides, leakages in the water system continue at 40-60 per cent.

The state of affairs in the unauthorised colonies remains the same. We still have traffic jams and waterlogging. If there is waterlogging, the CM puts the blame on BJP-controlled MCD. If you are a head of state, you have to be a little more visionary about things, and address the problem. Twenty lakh people roam around the city with ration cards procured after paying money here or there. Then too, they don't get any ration out of it. Poor people are being cheated. Every time there is an election, they will announce slogans. Last time, they gave temporary regularisation certificates. They talked about the Rajiv Ratan Awas Yojana. I filed a case with the Lokayukta, which said that even in 2008 and in 2012, the government's announcements pertaining to regularisation of unauthorised colonies were false.

Ravish Tiwari: Are you suggesting that things have remained the same for the past 15 years?

There could have been marginal improvement in something or the other, but the issues should have been solved in totality. Instead, things have gone from bad to worse. This is what my contention is — every election, she talks about development. She starts with the metro and finishes on flyovers. We started the metro. When (Madan Lal) Khuranaji was the CM, there were a number of Cabinet meetings where the metro was planned. No doubt during their regime, the metro got implemented, but Atalji (Atal Bihari Vajpayee) got its bhumi puja done. He was the one who waved that flag for the first line, from Shahdara to Kashmere Gate. But Mrs Dikshit had also boarded that train because she became the chief minister.

Rakesh Sinha: Are you saying they have taken credit for your work?

It is not about taking or giving credit. At least they could have solved one issue. In schools, there is shortage of potable water. I can challenge you to show me any school which has a 100 per cent strength of teachers. This is not development.

Go to GB Pant Hospital and find out how many faculty members are there. It has been a thoroughly casual approach. Recently, when I went to Glasgow, I was shown the beautiful auditorium where the Commonwealth Games will be held in 2014. It struck me that the Commonwealth Games had been held in Delhi only yesterday, in 2010. The media has shown the citizens of Delhi what the city witnessed during the Games. The bridge, which fell 10 days before the Games, was rebuilt by the Army in four days for Rs 30-40 lakh, while they had spent some Rs 10 crore on it. So what I am trying to say is that she could have delivered.

DK Singh: From the BJP's perspective, what is it that you bring to the table that Vijay Goel couldn't?

There is no question of differentiating between Dr Harsh Vardhan and Vijay Goel. He is our party president in Delhi, and the face of the BJP for the election. We are all part of the same party. When I do something, it's not Dr Harsh Vardhan but the party doing it. And certainly, we'll go forward with our vision.

D K Singh: Most of the candidates are seeking votes for Narendra Modi, not you.

Modiji is our prime ministerial candidate. He is the official symbol of the BJP's future. When the party goes to the people, it is quite natural that the party workers/leaders will first talk of the PM candidate, then talk about something else. But we are asking for votes on the basis of our party's ideologies and our past record of good governance.

Rakesh Sinha: How serious a rival is the Aam Aadmi Party? Do you think the fight in Delhi is triangular?

My observation at the moment is that we are far ahead in the game. Earlier, we used to think that the fight is only between the Congress and BJP, but right now, we are far ahead of the Congress. The actual fight is happening between the Congress and AAP for the second slot. I feel that there is too much hype about the AAP. It has nothing to do with the ground reality. All the people who have projected all this will probably face the worst frustration of their life on December 8.

Apurva: You were just talking about how Sheila Dikshit had 15 years to develop Delhi and hasn't. The BJP also had three chances to take power from Dikshit, but couldn't. What is going to change this time around?

I disagree. No doubt we didn't win the Assembly elections, but we improved our tally by five to six seats each time, starting from 2003 and 2008 onwards. If you analyse the results over the last 15 years, there was a time when we got all seven parliamentary seats. We also got the MCD from the Congress in 2007. Even when she had put all her might to get the corporation back in 2012, they still lost. It's not that Delhi people are not with us or they have written us off. It's just that maybe she enjoys a little better luck than us.

Pragya Kaushika: Many party leaders maintain that 'winnability' will be the criterion for any candidate. So, are you satisfied with the candidate list and do you think 'winnability' was the criterion? People in your party are saying that the list is not in accordance with the survey that was done.

That's not true. We had a couple of meetings for finalising our candidates and the longest meeting lasted eight hours. Mr Nitin Gadkari had got about eight to nine surveys done from different agencies. We had put everything on the table and in that eight-hour meeting, everybody had access to anything they wished to see. Everything about each seat was declared in front of everybody. There could be some errors, but even after a survey report, you can't have a metre which will give you the best results.

Pragya Kaushika: What about leaders who have lost two-three elections and yet have been given tickets?

In an election, one always wins and another loses. If someone loses, it doesn't mean he has been rejected because the other party got more votes than him. He is not rejected by the party cadres. He is already known to the people in his constituency. If he continues to serve the people despite his failure, why should he be denied the chance to contest again just because he lost once? Even Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Indira Gandhi had lost elections. Elections are for winning and losing, not jeopardising anyone's career once and for all.

Krishna Uppuluri*: The Aam Aadmi Party has claimed that on paper, electricity bills can be reduced by 50 per cent. The BJP has claimed that these can be reduced by 30 per cent. Why this 20 per cent difference?

We want to give every house solar power. If we do that, we can reduce the power bill to any extent. The AAP are claiming many things, but they have not been in government for a single day. They are saying they will make the Jan Lokpal on Ramlila ground, but I can tell you that as long as Delhi doesn't have full statehood, the Assembly cannot enact such a legislation.

Arshiya (Amity International School student): How do you propose to improve Delhi's existing infrastructure in order to accommodate the influx of migrant population?

You can't stop anybody officially, so you have to devise a mechanism to deal with it. The concept of NCR unfortunately has remained on paper. The said board meets once in six months and circulates minutes and that's all. This concept has to be strengthened and this is one of the priority areas we will bring up with Mr Narendra Modi when he becomes the PM. The first is to get statehood for Delhi, then convert the NCR Planning Board into an authority which has more power and financial strength, and to develop satellite towns.

Pritha Chatterjee: The Congress has said that they have done better than you in healthcare. You spoke about polio, but they say that polio was officially eliminated during their tenure. They also say that in 1996, Delhi saw its worst dengue outbreak. In terms of health infrastructure too, they say they have added more hospital beds than you did.

None of these statements is true. No doubt dengue came in 1996, but it is a disease that has a cycle of five years irrespective of the government in power.

Go to Dwarka, you will find foundation stones of a hospital being laid before every election. This hospital in Dwarka was proposed by me. I even got all the clearances. From 1998 to 2013, nothing has been done about it. I convinced Professor Asis Datta that some land in JNU could be used to construct a hospital. We got the foundation stone laid, but it has been 15 years, and nothing has happened. They have put most health programmes I started into the dustbin.

Kaunain Sheriff*: The BJP has centered its campaign around the youth. But only 50 per cent of voters aged 18-19 will be able to vote in the polls, according to the Delhi Election Commission. Are you overestimating the power of the youth?

We are committed to development and protecting the interests of the youth. I am all for creating a large number of jobs, and will propose to develop a commission for the youth. Regarding the statistic of 50 per cent not registered, more than the youth, the party workers are to be blamed for not being able to enrol that 50 per cent of youth. I wish youth activity that has been witnessed on the ground in recent past is also seen in the exercise of their voting rights.

Monojit Majumdar: The BJP keeps promising reduction of crime in Delhi. CM Sheila Dikshit has been complaining how she does not control police and that will not change even when you come to power. What are the two things that you think you can do to bring crime rates down?

I challenge this statement of CM Dikshit, as through the Home Secretary, the Chief Minister has a right to summon the police chief. The police chief reports to the Delhi Assembly when there is a debate. When I was health minister, I used the police chief and all his 52,000 policemen and their gypsies, and the home guards, for the polio eradication campaign. They were at my disposal on October 2, 1994, for the polio eradication programme. If they could be used for that programme, why can't police — even if technically it is not under her control — not be used or controlled? She could have brought that under her control easily. The government at the Centre is controlled by her party. What was so difficult? Around the world, people have covered dark spots and done away with crime. In 15 years, she could not finish the dark spots in Delhi? She treated it casually.

A lot of things were promised and not implemented. Why can't they, with the help of home guards, ensure patrolling and uniform lighting on the streets of Delhi? Why is there no online provision for FIRs for women? We will speak to experts and will look deeper into the issue.

D K Singh: Both you and the AAP talk about reducing power bills and eradicating corruption. How are you different from the AAP? Would it not have made the choice easier for voters had you formed an alliance?

There is no need for us to join any party. We have been in Indian politics for over 63 years. We are very confident of our victory. Wise people know that if they want to get rid of the Congress, the only option they have is to support the BJP.

Transcribed by Ananya Bhardwaj and Prawesh Lama

* These are EXIMS students

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