One of the better known candidates of the AAP, Atishi is up against former Delhi Congress chief Arvinder Singh Lovely and BJP’s Gautam Gambhir in East Delhi parliamentary constituency. The 37-year-old social worker spoke to Siddhanta Mishra on various issues being raised during the elections. Excerpts:
When your candidature was announced, there was a lot of talk about your last name ‘Marlena’. You dropped it from your social media accounts, but your affidavit still mentions your full name as ‘Atishi Marlena’. Why did you take that decision? Was it fear of being attacked by the opposition?
My full name is Atishi Marlena Singh. I had dropped the last name ‘Singh’ many years ago because I feel there is too much discussion on names in this country. Because the people start talking about your caste, ethnicity, and the focus is shifted from work. We as a country need to move beyond that politics. The people should vote on real issues. The media should also focus on the main issues.
What is the main issue in your constituency?
The main issue in East Delhi is of safety and security of the people, cutting across classes, living in unauthorised colonies, resettlement colonies, apartment complexes, and slums. All of them feel that it is not safe enough to step out of houses after dark. The Delhi Police is the most ineffective agency in the city.
Why do you think statehood is the solution to all the problems?
Whatever problems Delhi faces, be it lack of safety and security, college admission, employment of youth, all of these are related to statehood. No population of 20 million has such a poor governance structure like Delhi does. We have a bigger population than many countries, and yet you have one agency, MCD, which is responsible for cleanliness. And it is answerable to the Central government. Due to the DDA and the Delhi Police not being under our control, Delhiites face so many crises on a daily basis. The DDA was formed to provide affordable housing, but it has become a real estate mafia. None from lower-middle and middle-class families can afford to buy a house.
The BJP accuses the AAP government of not implementing Central government health welfare schemes like Ayushman Bharat for political reasons. Why is that?
Ayushman Bharat is probably one of the most poorly conceived insurance policies across the world. The Delhi government runs a far more effective scheme called Delhi Arogya Kosh. It is a cashless transaction and they (patients) do not have to pay for their treatment up to Rs 10 lakh.*
The Congress accuses the AAP of not sticking to the terms of alliance and contends why should it only think about Opposition unity
The AAP took several steps back for an alliance with the Congress. We wanted an alliance in Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh and Delhi. The Congress said no alliance in Punjab, so we proposed Haryana, Delhi and Chandigarh. We will win all the seven seats in Delhi. Arvind Singh Lovely is going to forfeit his account. The fight is between AAP and BJP.
*Delhi Arogya Kosh provides financial assistance to the extent of Rs 5 lakh to the needy eligible patients for treatment of any illness /disease in a govt hospital.