Camera person: Abhishek Ranjan
Video Editor: Purnendu Pritam
Raghav Chadha, Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) candidate from South Delhi that goes to polls in the sixth phase of the Lok Sabha elections on 12 May, is one of the youngest leaders in the fray.
In a politically ‘non-political’ chat, the 30 year-old talks about his journey from being a CA to a full-time politician, his opponents, the Congress and PM Modi.
Raghav, there’s a trend of non-political interviews these days and there is a big issue in front of the nation. Our PM was also asked this question, do you eat mangoes?
Yes. Yes, I am an ‘Aam’ aadmi, so I do eat ‘Aam’, I eat oranges, I eat apples, I eat everything!
I am asking you such questions because these days when I see some anchors, it seems there are no issues left in this country on which questions can be asked. So what do they ask in interviews? Do you eat mangoes? Do you sleep? But when we talk about the real issues, according to you, what’s the real issue on which this election is being fought?
There are two kinds of issues. Some on macro level and some on micro level. The issue on the macro level is that of full statehood (for Delhi). We have said that in this election, if the people of Delhi shower their love and blessings on AAP like in 2015, we (AAP) will give Delhi full statehood within two years.
On micro level, the issues are of basic amenities. In the past 70 years, the leaders of the Congress and the BJP have deprived the people of the south Delhi constituency of amenities like electricity, water supply, roads, sewer and drainage. The work of giving these basic amenities has been done by Arvind Kejriwal in the past five years.
What do you think of the new definition of nationalism in the country?
This is a kind of ill campaigning that whoever disagrees with Modi ji or Amit shah ji is an anti-national. There’s a news agency that’s been launched and its distribution certificates stamped ‘national’ and ‘anti-national’.
The ones who did not hoist the national flag in their Nagpur headquarters for 52 years, the ones who said that they will throw separatists out of the country but later formed a government with separatists in J&K, the ones who went uninvited to Nawaz Shariff’s birthday and have cake and the ones who play politics in the name of Abhinandan and ask for votes, such people should have no right or courage to distribute certificates of nationalism.
You’re 30 years old. You joined activism and active politics at the age of 22-23. At 27, you were an advisor to Manish Sisodia to plan the Delhi budget. What was that one point in your college life when you decided ‘I will become a politician’.
I can’t identify that one moment when I decided to become a politician. It just happened. I was a CA. Born and brought up in Delhi, was having a job. Then I met Arvind Kejriwal. As a researcher I started working with him, then the party was formed, the party started giving me responsibilities, the flow went on. Twelve years of school, I used to say I want to join the army to do something for the country. Now serving the country happened in the form of a politician, not an army man, that’s a different issue.
You were an advisor to Manish Sisodia in 2017, but by 2018, the post got into a controversy, the central government nullified all such posts, the posts for which you and your team were drawing a salary of Re 1. When all that happened, you issued a demand draft of Rs 2.5 to the central government. I want to know, did you ever get those Rs 2.5 back?
No, I just gave away those Rs 2.5. I served under Manish Sisodia as a Delhi government advisor, I used to draw a salary of Re 1. That 1 Re, I returned to the government with interest. Because Modi’s government wasn’t liking it that I was doing something good for the state government. His government hates people like us who want to bring a change, who want to make the government better.
You were a spokesperson for AAP and it was your job on a daily basis to participate in the shouting matches in the 9 pm debates. Did you ever feel that the anchor should stop yelling and just shut up?
Of course I felt that. Anchors these days defend BJP and Modi ji more than the BJP spokespersons themselves. There are so many panel discussions and shows where you don’t need a BJP spokesperson because the anchor plays both the roles. I don’t like using my lung power, I like using my mental power. But there are very few media outlets left who are doing unbiased journalism.
As far as your opponents are concerned, you’ve made your thoughts clear about BJP’s Ramesh Bidhuri. You are also pursuing a case against him, to what extent do you think action might be taken against concerns that you have raised about him concealing some information from the Election Commission.
The Election Commission did what it had to. It granted him relief in the matter. I am now approaching the High Court. There’s a very critical FIR filed against MP Ramesh Bidhuri which had allegations of thrashing people from Purvanchal. The criminal case needs to be told to the people but he hid it in his affidavit. When we caught him, he confessed to the EC that the FIR exists and he did not know about it, but it does exist.
What do you have to say about Vijender Singh, your Congress opponent. He’s a star boxer. Do you think his star power might overshadow yours?
I welcome him into the politics of Delhi and India. We need young leaders in politics. The youth need to join politics. But he is contesting elections from a wrong party. There’s no presence of Congress left in Delhi. Congress is an irrelevant force in Delhi. In my parliamentary constituency of South Delhi, nobody is voting for Congress. But never mind, Iwelcome him into politics.
You say the Congress is irrelevant in Delhi. Then why did the people see so much desperation in AAP to ally with the Congress?
Speaking of desperation, we believe that the duo of Modi ji and Amit Shah is dangerous for the country. The duo has destroyed every independent institution of India, put the democracy in danger, they destroyed communal harmony in India. The country is going through a bad phase and it needs to be saved. How will you save the country? The country can be saved when there’s one Opposition candidate against every BJP candidate. That will happen only when different Opposition parties come together. The Congress, I feel, wants to benefit the BJP in this election.
BJP has Chowkidar, Congress has Nyay, Modi has Mahagathbandhan, what does AAP have?
AAP has Arvind Kejriwal.
Do you think in the AAP too, Arvind Kejriwal has become a figure bigger than the party?
Arvind Kejriwal is the national convener of the party, he is our leader, my leader. I was a CA. He held my finger and taught me how to walk in the political lines. He’s my guru, my neta. He’s the biggest vote getter. People love Arvind Kejriwal. They consider me a representative of Arvind Kejriwal. They consider me his close one, his soldier and that’s why they want to vote for me and make me win. Votes are polled in his name.