Known for her contribution to the education reforms brought under the AAP government in Delhi, 38-year-old educator Atishi has been given a second chance by the party to contest as its Kalkaji candidate for the upcoming Assembly elections.
Atishi talks to The Morning Standard about what she brings to the table as a candidate.
What made you want to contest this election?
For the last five years, I was working as an advisor in Delhi government and I was able to impact the schools. Being an elective representative, one can play a more formal roles, even if it is within a constituency.
Why did you choose the Kalkaji constituency?
Kalkaji has seen significant educational development in terms of flagship projects and schools of excellence. Since that’s my area of expertise, this is where it shines through.
Do you see a tough battle in your constituency?
None of the surveys has shown the Congress touch double-digits in vote shares and the BJP has no CM face and has not talked about their vision for Delhi at all.
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Does that imply there’s absolutely no competition?
An election is an election. But public support clearly seems to be AAP’s favour.
As an educator, how do you fit the role of a political leader?
The question is about the kind of people who should be in politics. I think AAP has shown that ordinary people can work well in power. The CM was an IRS officer, Manish Sisodia was a journalist while Saurabh Bharadwaj was a software engineer. AAP has shown different kind of people can exist in politics.
Education has been a focal point for AAP in elections but it failed to work in the LS elections. Why?
The Lok Sabha elections are fought on national agendas. Odisha, Haryana, Maharashtra and Jharkhand showed support for BJP but their state elections revealed a different picture. State elections are about the bread-and-butter issues that affect people’s lives.
Can education be a poll factor?
Absolutely. There are 16 lakh children who are studying in Delhi government schools. When their quality of education changes, it makes a difference.
What did you learn from your Lok Sabha election defeat?
We had run an excellent campaign and there was lot of goodwill that people expressed. Even if we had won all the seven seats, that won’t have been nationally relevant. Here in Delhi, people want Kejriwal as CM because the real issues like water and electricity have been addressed.
Senior party leaders are not talking about the CAA-NRC issue during their campaigns and were not seen on ground during the violence in Jamia and JNU. Why?
AAP voted against CAA in Parliament, which makes our stand clear. When there’s violence, the security forces are needed to improve the situation not political presence. In fact, too many people on ground worsen the situation. The CM promptly spoke to L-G so that suitable action could be taken.
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AAP has fielded eight women as candidates. Is that enough?
Of course it is not enough. It’s an improvement from last time which is a good thing and we hope that over time we would be able to present more women candidates.
You are also in-charge of framing the manifesto. What aspects party will touch upon this time?
Last five years we have been providing basic facilities. Now that the foundation is built, the focus is on building Delhi into a world-class city. Improvements in transport, cleanliness and roads are in our plan.
Last election, a pamphlet was circulated with slurs against you. Have such incidents made you cynical?
When BJP and Congress don’t have real agendas such misogynistic comments come up. But I always say, ‘Naam pe nahi kaam pe baat karo’.
What all issues are you banking upon in your constituency?
Lot of work has been done in past five years – water connection, sewer lines, CCTVs…there’s no doubt about improvement. More needs to be done on the traffic and parking issue which needs a redesign. Basic infrastructure to the large population living in slums needs to be provided.