AAP has given India hope: Rajmohan Gandhi

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Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson Rajmohan Gandhi, who exited from the political scene after losing to then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1989, has decided on a second plunge into politics as an AAP candidate for the Lok Sabha poll because he sees “hope” in the party that has emerged as a “new force” in Indian politics.

“India was truly sick with corruption and the Aam Aadmi Party has suddenly given hope to the country. The party is very much in line with what I have been trying to do for the last 60 years,” Mr. Gandhi told IANS in an interview at AAP’s local office in East Delhi.

“AAP is the first new force that has emerged as a completely all-India party and no one is excluded from it” he added.

AAP has decided to pit Mr. Gandhi – better known as a scholar and historian rather than as a mass leader – against Congress MP Sandeep Dikshit in the East Delhi constituency.

Mr. Dikshit is the son of Congress leader and Delhi’s three-time Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, whose party’s rout in last year’s assembly elections and AAP’s spectacular debut stunned the entire country.

Mr. Gandhi, who divides his time between the India and the U.S. where he was a research professor at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, finds AAP founder Arvind Kejriwal “remarkable” and “fearless”.

“Arvind Kejriwal has a position in India which is quite remarkable. He is quite fearless, he has got drive, he has got energy and his political work was preceded by a very patient community organisation work in Delhi,” Mr. Gandhi noted.

Asked how he would take on established political parties like the Congress and the BJP, Mr. Gandhi said, “The majority doesn’t know what I have done in my life. At the same time, this constituency knows about AAP.”

With just over a month before Delhi votes in the general election, Mr. Gandhi has begun his campaigning and been travelling in the constituency to drum up support.

The mild-mannered author of several books on history says that his political battle against Rajiv Gandhi in Amethi in 1989 was “symbolic”.

“I was contesting against Rajiv Gandhi because the Janata Dal thought that he deserved a challenge, but nobody expected me to win. There was Bofors, there was corruption,” he said.

“Today it is completely different. AAP is expected to win in Delhi. I don’t know how many seats we will get in the Lok Sabha, but we will get a number which will surprise most people.” Mr. Gandhi said.

On his assessment of the BJP and its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, Mr. Gandhi said, “The BJP has certainly gained a fair amount of strength and Narendra Modi has established an image for himself.

“But the fact that he is going all out in every corner of India to find allies outside the BJP shows he is not confident of winning a majority,” Mr. Gandhi said.

Asked how a party formed just over a year ago and which is yet to have a proven national network could take on established players, Mr. Gandhi said it would be naive to deem AAP as being only confined to Delhi.

“Shortly before the Delhi results, people said it will be fantastic if we get eight seats and we got 28. Similarly, if people think AAP is only confined to Delhi that is not so,” Mr. Gandhi said with a smile.

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