‘I am available on a single text message. My mobile number is available to the people of Delhi. Every Saturday, I meet the common people.’
Manoj Tiwari, Delhi Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president and MP from North-East Delhi who has completed one-and-a-half years in office, spoke to The Sunday Guardian about last year’s massive victory of the party in the MCD elections, the perception that he is an “outsider” and on facing dissent from within his party. Excerpts:
Q: In November 2016, you were appointed as the chief of the Delhi BJP. It has been almost 18 months of your tenure and you have gone through many ups and downs. How do you look at your presidentship of the BJP in Delhi?
A: When I was appointed to the post, the perception was that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was governing very well, but as soon as I took over, we started reality checks on the streets of Delhi, in the slums, in unauthorised colonies and even in developed colonies and we found that the AAP government in Delhi was failing in every aspect. We were able to bring out this reality among the people as a result of which we won on all the three MCDs with a decisive mandate. As president of the Delhi BJP, I am satisfied with the work we are doing on the political and social fronts. We have succeeded in telling the people of Delhi that the AAP government does not want to work and is, therefore, indulging in blame game politics. I would say that my tenure so far has been good, since I have tried not to make any mistakes and sail through this period swiftly by taking everyone together.
Q: There is this constant tussle between the AAP, which is in majority in the Assembly, and the BJP that is in charge of the MCDs, which is hampering work in Delhi, as a result of which people are suffering due to poor governance. How can this problem be solved?
A: I think the roadmap to solve this problem should be brought out by the Chief Minister of Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal. I do not support blame game politics. In my one-and-a-half years of presidentship and four years of being a Member of Parliament from Delhi, I have realised that the AAP government in Delhi has failed in all aspects. There is a lot of double standards in what Arvind Kejriwal says and what he does. I understand that the MCDs are with the BJP, but the funds need to come from the state government, but they have not adhered to the recommendations of the various finance commissions that have come from time to time. We have been trying to speak to the Chief Minister, solicit his cooperation for an all-party meeting. We have even met the CM, have been insulted, but the CM does not seem to care. After the court’s intervention asking the government to release funds, it became clear it is the AAP which is at fault.
Q: You are seen as an outsider in Delhi. Has this caused any kind of hindrance to your political career in Delhi?
A: No, I have never faced any such problem in Delhi, because of my being a Poorvanchali. In Delhi, everybody is an outsider. Everybody has accepted me, even people who have been in Delhi for a long time have given me lots of love and have accepted me.
Q: But your political opponents say that you are an outsider and only represent the Poorvanchalis and that you are not representing the Punjabis and the Baniya’s of Delhi. Your take?
A: I know the people who are saying such things and you must understand that even they themselves are outsiders. My political opponents say such things because they are insecure of me. They have this feeling from where did Amit Shahji pick me up and give such a big responsibility.
Q: There have been reports of inner party dissent against you and some of your party colleagues have even spoken directly against you. How do you handle this inner party dissent against you, from within your own party?
A: I do not pay attention to these things. Our party is a party of discipline and once work is allocated, everybody has to do his or her work. The problem is that I do not hear or see the dissent in front of me; I only get to hear it from my well wishers and from the media. So when they (dissenters) are not willing to come out in the open and say it, why should I worry about it? The decision I take (as state president) is adhered to, rest I am not worried about. Some sort of rivalry is always there as people are ambitious and everyone wants to progress in his or her career. In BJP, one can only reach the top by doing good work. So the people who want to see me replaced should work hard. I promise them that I will myself leave the post once they are able to do this.
Q: A major cause for resentment among your own party people is that since you are a celebrity, you have not been able to shed your celebrity image even now and that you are not accessible to people.
A: These are all rumours. I doubt that anybody would think like this about me, because I am available on a single text message. My mobile number is available to the people of Delhi. Every Saturday, I meet the common people. On Mondays, I meet the voters and workers at the party office. Apart from this, every day from 9-11 am, anybody can come to my residence and meet me. Do you know that in the last four years, I have just taken 42 holidays for personal work and on all the other days, I have dedicated myself to the people of Delhi and to the party?
Q: In Delhi, all the seven MPs belong to the BJP and at the end of their term, how do you think your MPs performed in Delhi?
A: Whatever work has happened in Delhi is only because of our MPs. You can verify that most of the works done in Delhi have been done through the Central schemes. As much as 80% of the work in Delhi is being done under the Central schemes. All our seven MPs are fulfilling their duties with responsibility and have been working tirelessly for the people of Delhi.
Q: But when we look at the expenditure from the MPLAD fund of the MPs in Delhi, it can be seen that some of them have not spent enough, while some have done great work. What do you have to say to this?
A: You all should do a separate story on this someday. Of the Rs 20 crore budget I had in the last four years, I have already spent Rs 17 crore. I think by the end of this year, the funds will become inadequate for the works I have started in my constituency. We are investing the money in several sectors like installing CCTVs and beautification of parks, while some money is being used to install LED lights, among many other works.
Q: In the last Assembly election in Delhi, the BJP faced a huge defeat against the AAP. How have you deliberated on your mistakes and how do you plan to take on the AAP in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections?
A: We always introspect on the reasons for our loss. However, the situation in Delhi has now changed completely. The people of Delhi have understood that they made a mistake by voting for AAP and it has no intention to work for the people. People have realised that if the BJP would have been in power in Delhi with Modiji being the PM, Delhi would have become one of the best cities in the world, with clean water, air, road and best infrastructure.
Q: Why is it that we do not see the Delhi BJP aggressively taking on the AAP government in Delhi, especially on the streets? More often, we have seen the BJP taking a softer stand against the Delhi government as an Opposition?
A: Inside the Assembly, we are just three people. Whenever they feel like, they remove our members from the Assembly. As far as coming to the streets against them is concerned, we feel that Delhi is a very densely populated city and repeatedly organising protests on the streets of Delhi causes massive inconvenience to the common man. We have felt the plight of the common man and, therefore, decided to cause minimum inconvenience to them. But whenever the need arises, we do come on the streets. In Delhi, everybody is aware that we are doing whatever it takes to take on this government while making sure minimum problem is caused to the people.