The people have realised that the Congress government provided the best governance in Delhi and at the Centre as well, and the party will win all seven seats in the national capital, Ajay Maken, the Congress candidate for the New Delhi Lok Sabha seat, tells Parvez Sultan in an interview.
The Congress performance in polls since 2013 has been dismal. You also lost two elections consecutively. How confident are you of victory?
I won five elections consecutively since 1993. My track record was that I never lost re-election. With every victory, the margin would get bigger. The years 2014 and 2015 were aberrations. This was when the Anna agitation took place. December 16 (gang rape of a paramedic in a bus) had happened. There was anger against the Congress government, which translated into a vote against us. It went to the BJP in 2014, and in 2015 it was AAP. Now, the people have realised that the Congress government provided the best governance in Delhi and at the Centre as well. We will win all seven seats.
What are the issues which dominate your (New Delhi) constituency?
Issues related to traders—Goods and Services Tax (GST) and sealing—and government employees. New Delhi constituency comprises 35 per cent government employees. There were anomalies in implementation of the 7th Pay Commission’s recommendations. It included draconian provisions. The pay commission said that there would be no further pay commissions, which was the biggest draconian provision. The increment has come down to 14 per cent from 40 per cent. The government employees and traders are deciding factor in New Delhi constituency. They are angry with the present dispensation.
How do you benefit if they are affected by the pay commission?
A pay commission was set up every third year of the decade. The first was formed in 1953, then in 1963, 1973, and so on. The 6th Pay Commission was to be set up in 2003, but the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led NDA government refused. When we (the Congress) came to power in 2004, I sat on a dharna. Consequently, the commission was created in 2005 and its recommendation was implemented in 2008 with retrospective effect and all arrears since 2006 were disbursed. This was when government employees got the most arrears ever.
On Thursday, the MP from the New Delhi Lok Sabha seat, Meenakshi Lehki, blamed Congress and you for the sealing chaos in Delhi.
Lekhi is not correct on facts. It was the Congress government that brought a special Act to prevent sealing. In all, 170 amendments were made in the Master Plan of Delhi (MPD). About 3,000 roads were notified for commercial and mixed land use. Twenty-two places where industry concentration was 70 per cent or more were declared industrial areas. This way, lakhs of commercial establishments were saved at that time. That is why I was, across the city, felicitated by Praveen
Khandelwal, the traders’ leader, who is associated with the BJP.
Will the contest in Delhi be triangular?
The main plank of AAP is full statehood, which is not having much resonance among voters. People have understood that with two or three MPs, the Aam Aadmi Party government will not be able to do much in Parliament. Unemployment, GST, and, as far as Delhi is concerned, sealing are the issues. For all these, you need a significance presence of MPs in order to persuade the Central government or become an effective opposition.
You have been vocal in favour of alliance. Don’t you think it was against the Congress in the long run?
I was in favour of an alliance. I thought we could easily win in a coalition. The issue is over now. We will be able to win all seven seats alone, but we will have to work harder and winning margins may not be huge.