BJP’s Gautam Gambhir On Why He Challenged Kejriwal & Not Atishi

BJP’s Gautam Gambhir tells The Quint why he chose the BJP, his challenge to Arvind Kejriwal and more.

Published10 May 2019, 12:41 PM IST
4 min read

Video Editor: Varun Sharma

Less than a month after cricketer Gautam Gambhir joined the Bharatiya Janata party (BJP), he was nominated to contest from Delhi’s East Delhi – considered the Aam Aadmi Party’s stronghold.

Pitted against Atishi, known for her work in transforming Delhi’s education sector, Gambhir is fighting for votes in the name of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In his conversation with The Quint, Gambhir talks about why he chose the BJP, why his response to Atishi’s debate challenge was to challenge Kejriwal, his opposition to full statehood for Delhi and more.

It has been a month since you joined politics. How long ago did you know that you will join the BJP? How has the entire experience been?

It is exciting, and very challenging. I chose BJP because the country is in need of strong leadership. It was very instinctive. I just thought that I didn’t want to be someone sitting in an AC room and tweeting about everything and forget about it later. I wanted to be on the ground and implement my thoughts.

The AAP candidate had recently challenged you for a debate. However, you declined it saying that you did not believe in ‘debate and dharnas’. If you don’t believe in them, how do you expect to function in the parliament since it is one of the basic function of an elected representative?

When did I decline it? I just said that I will debate with Arvind Kejriwal.

Why Kejriwal and why not Atishi?

He has made the promises. Was it the candidate from AAP who has made the promise of making Delhi like London or Paris? Or did the CM make promise? I just told them that you have been in active politics for four and a half years. Give me half the time and we will debate wherever you want, whichever place you want. The only condition is that it is not going to be on social media platform and it will be right in the middle of the people. He can give me a place and date and he hasn’t answered that question.

That was for full statehood but what about the issues of East Delhi? Shouldn’t you be debating it with your opponent Atishi?

I want to debate about everything in Delhi. Not just East Delhi. Did he say he only wanted to make East Delhi a constituency better?

So when exactly will you debate with Kejriwal?

I am absolutely new in politics and you have got to give me some time. You’ve got to be fair in politics as well. And I have said that give me two and a half years time. I am not saying that I won’t debate. I have put the ball in the CM’s court. Is he ready to do it? You’ve got to ask the question to him.

So, is cricketer Gambhir a better candidate than Atishi, who has been credited for exceptional work in the educational sector?

That is for people to decide. I don’t know. I can’t say if I am a better or bad candidate. People will decide who is better.

Can you list top three things that you would want to do for East Delhi?

There are not just three things. There are so many issues but if you want me to pick three issues: the Ghazipur landfill is a big issue and so is the issue of parking. We want to work in the education sector. Want to bring clean water. Like there is a DU campus in North Campus, we want to bring in a campus in East Delhi.

But you have not mentioned full statehood for Delhi in this vision list. The AAP is almost entirely fighting the Lok Sabha elections on this promise.

Four and a half years back, I had not even heard of statehood. That statehood would be such a big issue, that promises you’ve made, which you haven’t been able to fulfill, you will hide behind statehood and start firing bullets. Because they don’t have statehood, nothing has happened.

Why is the BJP-led NDA government creating hurdles for the policies and schemes initiated by the AAP in Delhi?

It is petty politics. The CM has made such huge promises that we will open hundred hospitals, hundred colleges and make Delhi like London and Paris. After 23 May, you might hear him say New York and all those kind of promises. It’s not the right kind of politics. He has betrayed the people of Delhi. That is what they [the AAP] have been doing for the last four and a half years. Unfortunately, because they have made such huge, impractical promises, now they have to start blaming BJP for everything.

(Note: This interview took place before the Atishi-Gambhir pamphlet row.)

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