Unfazed, confident and dismissive of Opposition

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DELHI, October 27:

Fifteen years in office, how confident are you about being re-elected?

I feel confident.

Are you more confident now than you were, say, two months ago?

It is difficult to look at it this way. So far we have been telling the people about our work in the last 15 years. But that’s about it. The parties are yet to release their manifestos which would bring out their vision for the future. The voting is still almost a month and a half away. So it is early days yet. The next step for us therefore is telling the people through our manifesto what we plan to do in the next five years.

The Aam Aadmi Party and the BJP have claimed through opinion polls that they are going to win the elections. They both claim to be nearing or crossing the half-way mark, so where does that leave the Congress?

(Laughs) I really don’t know what their opinion polls are based on. They appear to taking opinions in a vacuum. So far all you see is the past. What about the future? The parties have still not declared their candidates and agenda. So how are people supposed to take a call.

What is your take on the AAP?

Frankly, I don’t understand what the AAP is all about, what is their ideology, their strategy. First they were standing by Anna Hazare, then they abandoned him and there is no mention of him. Now, they talk about corruption, but what about their own corruption? Do they have a plan for Delhi?

And where does the principal opposition party BJP stand today?

The BJP does not impress people in any way. The infighting over the issue of Chief Ministerial candidate is projecting it in a poor light. People are disillusioned with it and it has only itself to blame for it.

Is the `face’ or `image’ of a Chief Ministerial candidate more important than issues at stake, especially when even after projecting Sushma Swaraj and V.K. Malhotra, the BJP had lost elections in 1998 and 2008 respectively?

For them the `issues’ are more important because they have nothing to show to the people by way of work done by a particular person. For us, on the other hand, the ‘face’ becomes critical because it is all about how people relate to the humongous work done by us in the last 15 years.

Is the anointment of Narendra Modi as BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate a cause of concern for the Congress in Delhi?

He does not want to become the Chief Minister of Delhi so his coming here for the Assembly elections would not have much of an impact. As for the Lok Sabha elections, they are still some while away and we will have to see how things pan out by February-March next year.

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi recently opposed the Ordinance that proposed relief to elected representatives convicted by courts. How has that changed the criteria for selection of candidates for Delhi Assembly elections?

We are absolutely clear that no person with a criminal background would be given a ticket. But that pertains to only involvement in serious heinous crimes. If people are involved in property disputes or other such cases, that cannot be a reason enough to debar them.

What about those figuring in cheating cases, like preparing or submitting fake mark-sheets for their children?

I know you are referring to our MLA Tarvinder Singh Marwah of Jangpura. I must tell you he has been given a clean chit in that case. The forensic lab has cleared him.

Would you be fielding all the 42 sitting MLAs in the upcoming elections?

We are definitely for the “winners to continue” formula. As for the others, the basic criteria provides that people who are not from a given constituency, who have lost two elections or lost an election by over 10,000 votes will not be given tickets. However, being a local would not apply to celebrities, whose reach transcends boundaries.

With the coming in of Mr. Modi on the central political landscape, will the Muslim votes gravitate towards the Congress?

Not only Muslims, even Sikhs, women and Scheduled Castes would be voting for us in large numbers.

Will the decline of the Bahujan Samaj Party in Uttar Pradesh also benefit the Congress in Delhi, particularly when it had posted a record 14 per cent votes in the last Assembly elections?

But it should be remembered that even at its peak, the BSP had only managed to win a couple of seats. It is true, however, that now more and more people who had supported the BSP last time will move towards us.

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