New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government Thursday said it had no view on the Aam Aadmi Party’s proposal to provide free metro rides for women in Delhi since it had never received such a proposal in the first place.
But speaking to ThePrint, AAP’s national spokesperson Raghav Chadha attacked the BJP for “wanting to confine women to their homes”, and claiming the scheme would be a win for the women of the capital as well as the Delhi Metro.
In response to a question posed in the Lok Sabha Thursday, Hardeep Singh Puri, the Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Housing & Urban Affairs, said the government had received no such proposal.
Soon after, Delhi Chief Minister and AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal tweeted: “On our request, Del Metro has submitted its proposal. In principle, their proposal is agreeable to us. However, Delhi govt is studying its details. I repeat that, as announced, Delhi govt is committed to provide free metro rides to women (sic).”
Chadha insisted the proposed scheme would be a win-win situation — that women would benefit from it and so would the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation.
“The Delhi Metro is anyway using only 60 per cent of its overall capacity. Such a proposal will add to its revenue, with expenses (both fixed and recurring), remaining the same. Therefore, more revenue with same expenses will lead to more profits,” said Chadha, in what he claimed was the AAP’s first official press interview since the party won a single seat in the Lok Sabha elections.
Chadha said the proposed move would not only empower women, but also contribute towards ensuring their safety and security. However, he added he could understand why the BJP was protesting about it.
“The BJP has an anti-women mindset, they want to confine women to their homes… They don’t want women to step outside the four walls of their houses and do well for themselves,” he said.
Chadha also pointed to other cities around the world to illustrate that making public transport free has always been lauded. “Even cities like Luxembourg did it, and it was taken well,” he said.
He said while there are pros and cons to any new scheme a government takes up, the AAP is confident it will be able to deal with it. “There are always some teething issues in any new project, and once the logistics are in place, it will fall into place,” he said.
AAP knows how to bounce back
Chadha also reiterated that the AAP had held several review meetings to analyse what went wrong in the Lok Sabha elections, in which it lost all seven seats in Delhi and won just one out of 13 in Punjab.
“We know how to bounce back, just like we did a few years ago in Delhi (after Kejriwal’s 49-day government in 2013-14), when we won 67 out of 70 seats (in 2015),” he said. “Given the effort that is being put in, we will get 70 out of 70 seats.”
Delhi is set to go to the polls early next year, and Kejriwal’s AAP government has announced a string of policies labelled “populist” by the BJP — right from the free metro ride scheme to waiving CBSE exam fees for meritorious students to ensuring clean water supply to every household by 2024.
Asked if it reflected the AAP’s panic, as alleged by its opponents, Chadha said his party had always made massive announcements, and this was no different.
Chadha, who lost to the BJP’s Ramesh Bidhuri from the South Delhi Lok Sabha seat, was reticent when asked whether he would contest the assembly polls. He said he personally preferred to work on the larger strategies and campaigns of the party from behind the scenes rather than contesting himself, as “attention gets divided”.
“(But) if my party still wills it, I will do as whatever will make the party win,” he said.