New Delhi: At a time when women are “achieving so many big things”, giving out free bus or metro rides to them, like what Delhi’s Aam Aadmi Party government is proposing to do, is not the right way of doing politics, East Delhi MP Gautam Gambhir has said.
In the second part of his interview to ThePrint, BJP leader and former India cricketer Gambhir said: “We talk about gender equality, we talk about women going into defence, and achieving so many big things in our country… And we still end up giving freebies to them, which is not the right way of doing politics.”
The Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP government has proposed to make bus and metro rides free for women, apart from slashing power and water bills for all Delhiites. While free bus rides for women would start from 29 October, the Centre is yet to clear the proposal for free metro rides.
Gambhir said such a system should be for those who can’t afford it. “I’m not a big believer in giving freebies. I believe in giving them to people who cannot afford them. I would have definitely liked it if the free metro rides or bus rides would have been given to children who go to school. That would have been actually the right way of doing politics as well,” he said.
But this was hardly Gambhir’s only criticism of AAP or Kejriwal. On other issues like NRC, pollution and even political style, he had some sharp takes to offer, just a few months ahead of the Delhi assembly elections.
BJP confident for Delhi polls
Gambhir said while the BJP has not been able to come to power in Delhi in over 20 years, he is confident that this will change in the upcoming elections.
In the 2013 Delhi assembly elections, which saw the debut of the AAP, the BJP had emerged as the single largest party with 32 of the 70 seats. But the AAP, which won 28, formed the government with outside support from eight MLAs of the Congress.
Forty-nine days later, Kejriwal resigned after all non-AAP MLAs, including a JD(U) legislator and an independent, opposed his bid to introduce the Jan Lokpal Bill in the assembly.
A year later, the AAP was back in office with a stunning majority, winning 67 of Delhi’s 70 seats in the 2015 assembly elections.
Three main issues
Gambhir said his party would highlight three key issues in run-up to the elections — development, making promises that are achievable, and women’s safety.
“First is development. Second, as I’ve already mentioned, is to make promises which are achievable, don’t make fools of people. I think I’ve always said that, and BJP will do that. We will not play with the emotions of people,” he said.
“We’ve been betrayed on development… I think there has hardly been any development that has happened from the infrastructure point of view. Delhi has never looked so tired, while the world has moved on in the last year-and-a-half.”
Women’s safety is an issue Gambhir said he feels strongly about. “I think I’ve always believed that women should feel as safe as men in Delhi and they should be allowed to walk even at night. It’s their city as well.”
Kejriwal’s ‘dharna’ politics
Gambhir criticised Kejriwal for indulging in “dharna” politics, and not doing enough for Delhi.
“There have only been allegations, complaints, and dharnas, which you don’t expect your CM to do. We expect our CM to be more visionary, you expect to see him… more focused on development, rather than just doing dharnas, just criticising or just throwing mud on other people. That is not the kind of CM I personally would want,” he said.
NRC in Delhi
Gambhir pitched for the National Register of Citizens to be implemented in Delhi, pointing out that it is important to remove illegal immigrants from the national capital.
“He (Chief Minister Kejriwal) doesn’t understand the meaning of NRC. NRC is for people who have come from outside India; it is not for Indians who are living inside. And I’ve always said that once it is a success in Assam, hopefully we can deliver it once we get a BJP government in Delhi as well,” Gambhir said.
“The NRC is not bad for Indians, it is for people who have infiltrated, who are illegal immigrants. So probably the CM needs to understand the meaning of NRC.”
Gambhir said the AAP government was taking credit for reducing pollution, something which the BJP government at the Centre has been doing.
“The good thing is obviously the Centre has taken a lot of decisions, especially the peripheral expressway that has been created, so trucks are not allowed to enter Delhi. They have spoken to Haryana and Punjab to look into the crop burning issue,” he said.
“I think AAP is taking credit for reducing pollution, which is not the right thing, because they’ve hardly done anything. They started one scheme — odd-even — a couple of years back, and they discontinued that particularly because people want good solutions.”
Rising street crimes in Delhi
There have been increasing instances of crime on the streets of Delhi, something not in the AAP government’s hands since the Delhi Police falls directly under the Union home ministry. And Gambhir expressed confidence that the Centre would take the right decisions, also highlighting a need for all stakeholders to come forward to make Delhi safe.
“I think the right decisions and the right steps will be taken, because ultimately, you do not want Delhi to be named as the rape capital of the world. It is a collective responsibility as well. All men need to take the responsibility; the solution can’t come from a few people,” he said.
“We need to own it. I’m sure that all the right decisions will be taken, and all the concerned authorities will be looking into it. I’m sure things will get better.”
There have been many incidents of mob-lynching in many states across the country, and Gambhir unequivocally condemned them, saying it is the worst thing that can happen to a society.
“Dividing society in the name of religion is probably the worst thing you can do, and India is one nation from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. India is about development and nationalism is about development. I feel that this (mob-lynching) needs to stop, and I will never endorse it,” he said.
Removal of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir
Gambhir termed the removal of Article 370 as the “best thing that has happened to India”, and dismissed claims that things are not normal in Jammu and Kashmir.
“That’s not true, I think things are getting back to normal. I just heard that tourists will be allowed to go to Kashmir as well. Everything is getting back on track; internet service has been on, landlines have been restored,” he said.
“(Scrapping) Article 370 is probably the best thing that has happened to our country, we made Kashmir an integral part of our country. This is something which is an absolutely right decision. and I will always endorse it.”
Read the first part of the interview here.
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