Interview: Arresting Arvind Kejriwal biggest blunder of PM Modi; it will benefit Aam Aadmi Party, says Saurabh Bharadwaj

  • In an interview with LiveMint, Aam Aadmi Party leader and Delhi's Minister of Health Saurabh Bharadwaj said the BJP is not confident about even crossing the majority mark in Lok Sabha elections and that's why it is targeting all opposition leaders including Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

Gulam Jeelani
Updated6 Apr 2024, 01:36 PM IST
Interview: Arresting Arvind Kejriwal biggest blunder of PM Modi; it will benefit Aam Aadmi Party, says Saurabh Bharadwaj.
Interview: Arresting Arvind Kejriwal biggest blunder of PM Modi; it will benefit Aam Aadmi Party, says Saurabh Bharadwaj.(LiveMint)

It’s been over two weeks since Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate in connection with the alleged Delhi liquor scam case. Kejriwal has been running office from behind bars at a time when his Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), part of the Opposition INDIA bloc, is aspiring to make a mark by winning some seats in the Lok Sabha elections 2024.

LiveMint spoke with Delhi's Minister of Health, Urban Development and Tourism Saurabh Bharadwaj to discuss Kejriwal’s arrest, its impact on upcoming elections, its connection with electoral bonds and the future of Aam Aadmi Party. Excerpts from the interview:

Chief Minister of Delhi is in Tihar jail. How is the government functioning?

So first of all, I think it is known to everybody that all the portfolios in the Delhi government have been divided among the six ministers. Arvind Kejriwal, the Chief Minister, does not have any particular portfolio under him. You don't need a chief minister for the day-to-day affairs of the government.

Also Read: ‘Sunita Kejriwal is the best person to…’: says AAP leader Saurabh Bharadwaj

Secondly, it's a blessing that the election model code of conduct is in place across the country. You cannot bring out major policies. You cannot take major policy decisions. You cannot convenecabinet meetings where you need the presence of the Chief Minister. So basically, it's business as usual in Delhi.

But Arvind Kejriwal is also the chief of Aam Aadmi Party. How is the party managing without its supremo?

Yes, it is unfortunate that the national convener of a national political party is in jail when the country is going to Lok Sabha polls. And it is against a level playing field which has been mandated in the Constitution of India. However, we are dealing with this challenge.

Soon after his arrest on March 21, there was apprehension that the government may fall. But later, we realised that there is a strong sentiment attached to Kejriwal. Even though he is behind bars, Arvind Kejriwal’s absence is helping our party to be at the centre stage.

The ED had issued nine summonses to the chief minister before his arrest. Did the Aam Aadmi Party see it coming?

We did predict from November itself that Arvind Kejriwal would be arrested but when the model code of conduct came in, we thought since the Election Commission, which is in theory heads all the agencies, would not allow the arrest of the convenor of a national party weeks before polls.

I wonder about a few things; there is a political party which has been in the Centre for the last 10 years and none other than the Prime Minister and the Home Minister claiming that they are winning more than 400 seats in the Lok Sabha elections.

Also Read: Sanjay Singh's bail: Will it help ease tough PMLA rules, give respite to Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal in liquor policy case?

And then I see a desperate Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP),which is out to arrest all opposition party leaders, including the sitting Chief Ministers of two states.So, I wonder whether they are winning 400 seatsor they are desperate to even cross the majority mark. And I think the latter is true.

They (BJP) are not confident this time that they will even cross the majority mark, and that's why they are out against all opposition parties. Whether it is about seizing the accounts of the Congress party, whether it is the hounding of opposition parties and their governments in West Bengal and Kerala, or booking Kerala chief minister's daughter-in-law.

The arrest comes just weeks before Lok Sabha elections. How does it impact AAP and the INDIA alliance?

I see it not as a coincidence that on March 21, after being questioned by the top court of India, the State Bank of India and the Election Commission were forced to disclose electoral bond details at around 6.31 PM on March 31 and at around 7 PM on the same day, the ED was knocking the doors of Arvind Kejriwal’s residence. The whole electoral bond news faded under the news of Arvind Kejriwal’s arrest.

Why do you think Arvind Kejriwal is being targeted?

Arvind Kejriwal explained in the court, that there are basically three main witnesses against him. One of them is Mr Sharad Reddy, son of a billionaire who owns Aurobindo Pharma. And now imagine the son of a billionaire is behind bars for six months. He gives multiple statements that there is no link between Arvind Kejriwal and the so-called liquor scam.

Also Read: Arvind Kejriwal's arrest is linked to this pharma firm’s electoral bond donations to BJP: Report

But after six months, he says what the ED wants him to say against Arvind Kejriwal and then he is granted bail. Then he's made an approver, then he gives 55 crore to the BJP as electoral bonds. And only the BJP knew it from day one because there was a veil on electoral bonds which the Supreme Court lifted. So, I believe that the so-called witnesses are forced to name Arvind Kejriwal and then they are released.

BJP in Delhi says a Chief Minister cannot run government from jail?

If today Arvind Kejriwal resigns, tomorrow they will arrest Mamata Banerjee. They will ask her to resign. Then they'll arrest the Kerala Chief Minister, the Karnataka Chief Minister. They will ask them to resign. No, they will not resign. People have elected Arvind Kejriwal as the Chief Minister. People want him to continue and there is no legal bar for him to continue.

AAP is part of INDIA bloc. What are the prospects as we go to Lok Sabha polls?

I think, going by the usual progression for a party, our roadmap would have been like, we are in one state now and with a few seats in Goa and Gujarat, we would probably take a few more decades to aspire to be in power at the Centre. But I think Arvind Kejriwal’s arrest has provided an impetus to the party and brought us to the centre stage without going through that natural progression. I think it is a godsend for the AAP.

Whenever there are big milestones in the history, the people who are in power will do blunders. And I think arresting Aam Aadmi Party’s national convener Arvind Kejriwal will go down in history as the biggest blunder committed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. And I think this will give that much-needed impetus to our party to be seen on the national scene very soon.

 

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First Published:6 Apr 2024, 01:36 PM IST
HomePoliticsNewsInterview: Arresting Arvind Kejriwal biggest blunder of PM Modi; it will benefit Aam Aadmi Party, says Saurabh Bharadwaj

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