Prithvi Reddy, national executive member and convenor of the Aam Aadmi Party in Karnataka, spoke exclusively to The Sunday Guardian about the strategies and issues on which the party would be contesting the elections in Karnataka that are likely to take place in May this year. Excerpts:
Q: What made AAP choose Karnataka to contest elections there, when the party had a poor show in the recently concluded elections in Gujarat and earlier in Goa as well? What makes the party so confident about Karnataka?
A: I think the two states, Goa and Gujarat, are completely unrelated to Karnataka. In Karnataka, we are the true alternative and not a substitute for any party and change in Karnataka all these years meant juggling between the Congress, BJP and JD(S). We are not a substitute, but we are a true alternative here in the state. Also, let us understand that we are the fastest growing party in Indian history; in the last five years of existence, we have one government, one Opposition place and in Goa, we had about 6.5% vote share and in politics, it is all about surviving until people start believing in your kind of politics.
Q: What is the total number of seats that AAP is likely to contest in Karnataka?
A: Realistically, we are going to fight in as many seats as possible. We hope to fight all the seats in Bangalore and wherever we find our organisational strength, we will contest. We are already doing surveys which are very encouraging, and as per our own survey, 80% of Karnataka is looking for a change. No minister or MLA sitting in Bangalore can claim that his seat is safe, because people are fed up with the kind of politics that these people have offered.
Q: What would be the core issues on which the AAP is likely to contest elections in Karnataka?
A: Unlike the conventional process, we will not be fighting on the basis of religion, caste or language. We will go to the people of the state with real issues and issues that concern them, like problems in Bangalore, farmers’ suicide, corruption, among many others. Nobody is talking about these real issues that affect the common man. All these years what people had was to choose between the devil and the deep sea, but now they have a real alternative with a party that is honest and willing to discuss pro people issues that concern them the most. Let them at least have the choice between what is good and what is bad. We will go among the people and make it a fight between the people of Karnataka and the traditional corrupt criminal political system.
Q: Will you project any Chief Ministerial candidate before the elections?
A: We strongly believe that our politics is based on principles and not personality. For me, I am saying that every candidate should embody what AAP stands for and unlike the BJP, we are not relying on the personality factor. We are going to fight on issues and all our candidates will represent that. And for the CM, let the elected representative decide who their leader should be.
Q: Who would be your number one enemy in the state, the one you think would give you a tough fight?
A: I think quite honestly, even if the BJP’s Central leadership takes control of the election, it would be very difficult for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah to make anti-corruption an issue, standing next to the Reddy brothers and B.S. Yeddyurappa. That is not going to sell, so for us in Karnataka, we have to obviously fight the ruling party. I think there is very little to choose between the politics of the BJP and Congress.
Q: Do you think the disqualification of 20 AAP MLAs for holding an office of profit is likely to affect the party in the state during the elections?
A: To tell you honestly, if you talk to anyone, they will tell you that what happened was completely unfair. All you need is common sense to say that an office of profit does not apply when someone is not taking a single rupee. It is a law that has been misused, and I think this will work in our favour and people will understand how we are being victimised by the Central government.
Q: You said earlier that AAP is the “fasting growing party in the history of India”. In this regard, what would be the party’s outlook for the 2019 general elections? Or where do see AAP during 2019?
A: Ideally, we would like to give the people across the country to choose between good and bad, but it will depend on the organisational strength and resources. So when the time comes, we will take a call. As of now, we don’t know when those elections will be. There is a talk that it will be this year. There are a lot of things that are beyond our control, but if you ask me, we would like to give people across the country an alternative.
Q: There have been voices raised from within the party from time to time calling Arvind Kejriwal “autocratic”. Even a very senior leader like Kumar Vishwas has been lashing out against the top leadership indirectly. What do you have to say about these criticisms and how do you look at them?
A: There are two kinds of leadership, one is respect that you command and the other is respect that you demand. Arvind Kejriwal is a person who has commanded people’s respect and he has walked the talk and I do not believe he is autocratic at all. I think Arvind Kejriwal is an inspiration for many people and he has led from the front. And more importantly, what I believe about Arvind is that he made us believe that it is possible. However, I also think Kumar Vishwas is a great poet and orator, but there are external forces that are trying very hard to create disharmony within the party. I think what he is saying is something being influenced externally and he is being constantly told that he is not getting what he was supposed to be getting from the party.
Q: There have also been allegations against AAP for sometimes being the B-Team of the BJP and sometimes of the Congress. How do you react?
A: I think that we are the only real alternative and we are nobody’s “B”, we are the only “A”, and our party’s name also starts with “A”. I don’t see any difference between the Congress and the BJP; they come from the same DNA and the rest can debate and choose.
Q: So there is unlikely to be any pre-poll or post-poll alliance with any party for AAP in Karnataka.
A: Definitely not with the Janata Dal (S), Congress or the BJP. We will not join hands with anybody who has been corrupt. We are ready to join hands with any party that has a pro-people agenda and alternatively, we will be very happy to play the voice and watchdog for the people of Karnataka if we do not come to power; we will then be a responsible opposition.