Manish Sisodia and Rupashree Nanda in conversation with CNN-News18

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Delhi’s deputy chief minister, Manish Sisodia in an exclusive interview with CNN-News18 ahead of Delhi elections said that BJP is diverting citizens’ focus from main issues. He also broke his silence on Shaheen Bagh and said that he stands with the people of Shaheen Bagh.

Here is the full transcript of the interview:

Rupashree Nanda: There has been a lot of opposition. They attack you on the premise that you give out freebies but you retort back saying that despite freebies, Delhi’s budget is surplus. How can that be? How can you claim that on one side, you claim to give away freebies and then also claim to have a surplus budget?

Manish Sisodia: Those who are criticising it have no idea about politics of honesty. They think that despite tax thefts, how can a Government have such surplus budget? This is Kejriwal Government and it came from the womb of an anti-corruption movement. The first clincher is that this is an honest Government and because of that everyone can claim to be honest but I will show you proofs. No Government can furnish this big of an evidence that in 5 yrs, the budget of Delhi has jumped from 30K cr to 60K cr whereas in the previous rule before us, it jumped from 25k to 30k cr.

Rupashree Nanda: How did it happen?

Manish Sisodia: This jump happened because of honest tax payments. We also slashed tax rates. Before GST, there was VAT regime and in VAT regime, traders came to us and said that traders try to escape 12% tax slab. They get forced to issue bills without tax. But if we bring it down to 5%, then people are willing to pay their dues. In the first year, we slashed it down for some and then we slashed it for another 50-60 items in the next year. Our tax collection increased by 30%

Rupashree Nanda: Are you saying that true compliance led to budget surplus?

Manish Sisodia: Yes. Surplus means we have extra budget. There are 2 limits – maximum & minimum. So, every time we would slightly pass the minimum limit and when we have the surplus, we think what could be done for the people.

Rupashree Nanda: Do you think this is sustainable?

Manish Sisodia: If these initiatives aren’t sustainable, then one shouldn’t form the govt. If anyone thinks that they can be the CM of the state but yet we won’t provide cheap or free education to people and we will charge money to poorest of poor for transportation and clean water, electricity, then,…we are buying electricity from the money of the public. We aren’t doing them a favour by providing these facilities

Rupashree Nanda: The focus of our campaign is on the work that you have done. But day in and day out, we see debate over Shaheen Bagh. The opposition keeps attacking you and AAP is also responding. Do you fear that the focus of the polls will shift away from work oriented politics?

Manish Sisodia: This poll will be fought over the works. The people have seen us perform over 5 years and wherever we go, people talk about the benefits that they have received. Everyone has their reasons. That is why people will vote Kejriwal back this polls season. The problem with BJP is that the art they are masters of, it seem to have failed in Delhi. In 2015, they tried to inflame religious passions in Trilokpuri in 2015 and they tried to cause discord here but the people of Delhi have not only denied these activities but they have also denied the communal politics of NBJP and they gave 67/70 to AAP. Even this time, the people of Delhi are watching. On one hand, you have a CM who performs and on the other hand, you have a party that inflames issues. The people of Delhi aren’t interested in non-sense (BAWAUL)

Rupashree Nanda: In the recent polls in Maharashtra, Jharkhand, the anti-CAA protests weren’t visible but Delhi is a hot bed for those protests. Do you think that will affect the polls?

Manish Sisodia: I don’t think so because any people who are involved in protests of any kind be it of they are running their shops or working in an MNC, they all are concerned that if Kejriwal doesn’t come back, then the people of Delhi will have to pay more for Electricity. They are concerned that the Government schools fee will be hiked and the school will end up in the same position as before with cobwebs. The bus fare will riser. That is why I am not concerned, however, BJP does want people to digress and not talk about these issues

Rupashree Nanda: OUR HM has said that if you don’t want traffic and Sheen Bagh protests in Delhi, then vote for Delhi. How do you see these comments?

Manish Sisodia: I would like to say to the HM that Delhi is for the first time fighting on th issue of education, Delhi is all set…This is the 1st election in country’s history where education is a big issue. Your job is to focus on law and order in Delhi and don’t try to force your failures on the education of these students. Don’t play with the future of Delhi’s students for your politics. If you don’t want to fight elections and if you don’t have any issue son which you want to fight polls, then don’t fight polls. But if you want to, then tell the people of Delhi that see what we have done with the schools of MCD and these are the schools of AAP.

Rupashree Nanda: Do you fear that Delhi polls will be polarised?

Manish Sisodia: I don’t think the polls will be polarised. They are trying their best to but today when it is just 10 days left for the polls, the people are polarised only towards the work done by AAP. Go anywhere and the people of Delhi are afraid of just one thing and that is if Kejriwal doesn’t come back to power, then electricity will become expensive like the way they have in Noida. The relatives of Delhites also live in Noida and they also live in Gurgaon and Uttarakhand and they are just afraid that if Kejriwal doesn’t come back, then they will have to pay 4000 for which they pay ZERO. This is the ongoing polarisation.

Rupashree Nanda: Do you think you lacked somewhere because many buildings have been gutted down across Delhi and deaths keep happening. The sewer workers have been victims as well. Do you think you have lost sight of these rules and how they are flouted time and again?

Manish Sisodia: In the last 70 yrs, the kind of Government was in power, they ensured that Delhi stayed in a ditch, be it education to overall governance. We tried to get it out of that ditch as much as we could in the last 5 years and today, the progress has just started to pick up pace and that is what people are afraid of. People are afraid that if Kejriwal isn’t brought back to power, then, this progress will come to a standstill. This is what is probably Kejri’s pillar of strength that people support him and they know that only Kejriwal can get them rid off their issues. The people have seen what we have done in the last 5 years

Rupashree Nanda: Governance is also about other things like fighting corruption and enforcing rules and regulations. Do you think there has been any improvement there?

Manish Sisodia: Definitely. In terms of corruption where a person had to necessarily pay bribes to get the certificates made, now, today, a person can dial 1060 and a Government official visits him and asks him to get his proofs. What a person used to make rounds of offices and pay 500-1000 to get certificates made, now today, we have a model of governance where you can dial 106 and that 100s are getting their certificates sitting at home. Interestingly, the Congress Government in MP is implementing this. We are happy about this that we will benefit mutually from each other’s experiences.

Rupashree Nanda: Arvind when asked about if he sees Sisodia as CM of Delhi, Arvind said yes. But, do you see yourself as the CM of Delhi?

Manish Sisodia: I am grateful to him for this answer. But, we can’t generally think about that because what is to be done, we think that… like we are sitting in this sports ground, we made it like this and then we add a track here and we should get this and that done. Our dreams aren’t for positions but maybe we have some fault or this is just the way we have been manufactured…We never dream of positions. There is a need for positions essentially. Today, Delhi needs people who can work for education. Today, we need people who can work on electricity, water and others evciceds. Our dreams lie there and not on the positions. May be this is our flaw.

Rupashree Nanda: If your Govt is formed for the 2nd term, what will be your major priorities and what were your learning experiences because this was your term for 5 yrs?

Manish Sisodia: Some are learning experiences and some are journey experiences like it took us 3.5 years to fight it out against Centre in the courts. After 3.5 years when the judgement came, only then did we get some power and that was journey experiences. Learning experiences are many. From planning budget to expenditure, every day we are learning something as to how to increase public participation and how can we get more experts involved? You asked about priorities and I think whatever priorities we had before, we will continue with that

Rupashree Nanda: I will go back again to Shaheen Bagh and JNU because they are most debated these days. On this issue, where do you stand? And why do AAP and its leaders appear somewhat away from protest sites?

Manish Sisodia: I have said this before as well and I am repeating myself here that we are standing by the 2 cr people of Delhi and we are standing with all those who aren’t and we are standing by truth. Wherever there is truth and many things are sub judiciary and a lot of things are in media, but we are standing by truth and you tell us the truth and we will stand by it.

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