Kejriwal an outsider who has made lives miserable: Congress' Sabharwal

Romesh Sabharwal | Photo Twitter @RomeshSabharwal
The Congress’ Romesh Sabharwal is vying to reclaim the New Delhi seat, once represented by Sheila Dikshit, for his party. In an interview with , he questions claims made by his rival candidate, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, on issues such as pollution, and takes him on for his exorbitant use of public money on propaganda. Edited excerpts:

What is your strategy to defeat Kejriwal?

Kejriwal stands no chance against me. He is an outsider in the New Delhi constituency. I was born here and lived my entire life serving the people. All the people living here are like my family. All the NDMC employees, the safai karamcharis, the private sector employees, the jhuggi cluster people and dhobi ghat workers have lived with me, not him. And, Kejriwal has not done anything in the past six years to gain their trust.

However, he is a genius in running campaigns on government expense. He is good at creating social media hype because he has studied engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, an institute created by Jawahar Lal Nehru. 

Now, we are also working on social media but we have limited resources. Being a son of a government employee, I may not have money but all my government employee brothers and sisters are helping me out in standing against Kejriwal.

Kejriwal's report card shows that he has fulfilled all his promises. What is your take on this?

He is boasting about his mohalla clinics but not a single one has been opened in New Delhi, including his own constituency. He has not given accreditation to a single school in the past six years. In fact, he has made our lives more difficult by installing smart meters in our houses. This constituency has the highest number of government-servant quarters and we pay the water bill as a licence fee along with our house rent, so he cannot say that he has provided free water to us. Unfortunately, this constituency has faced step-motherly treatment. And, If he can prove that he has done anything for my constituency then I myself will support him.

Kejriwal was also a government employee, so why do you think that government employees will vote for you and not him?

Kejriwal has given a bad name to the government servant community. In the Lokpal Bill, he had said government servants are most corrupt in society.

Today, biometric systems are fixed in government offices, why are only junior officials forced to mark their attendance on them? Why aren't the Prime Minister, the Chief Minister and the senior-level officers also doing this? The biometric system is a move by the BJP and AAP to torture junior employees. This is a democracy, so why are the rules different? By installing biometric systems and calling government employees corrupt in the Jan Lokpal Bill, Kejriwal has abused all the government servants and my parents.

Which party do you consider your main opponent in this election--BJP or AAP?

We are contesting against AAP. It is a fight between an honest government employee's son and a liar (Kejriwal), who has insulted us by calling us corrupt and we are going to teach him a lesson. He does not know the pain of government employees because he belongs to class-A.

The Nirbhaya incident was the biggest setback for the Congress during Sheila Dikshit’s rule. What roadmap do you have on women's safety?

Women safety is my top priority, in fact, I was the one who wrote to Sushil Kumar Shinde, the then home minister to increase women staff in Delhi police. I will be more forceful in that direction and get more women police stations in the area. I have also discussed a plan with Priyanka Gandhi under which the government will bear all the expenses of a rape survivor, including travelling, court case, and medical.

Pollution has been a major issue in Delhi.  What plan do you have for controlling the increasing levels in the city?

In my constituency, we have some 15,000 quarters, which means an equal number of cars. To fight rising pollution levels, I met the chief secretary of Delhi and DTC chairman and asked them to provide only five buses in the morning and evening to pick and drop us to our offices, which are all located within a 5-km radius. I was told they cannot provide more buses because there are only 3,000 in Delhi. But when we left Delhi, in 2013, there were 7,000 buses.

Congress has a plan and strategy but Kejriwal has no vision. If this is the fate of his own constituency, then you can imagine what is the condition of the other constituencies.

In 2015, Kejriwal defeated Sheila Dikshit even though she was a three-time CM. What makes you think it would be otherwise this time?

He won against Sheila Dikshit because at that time he was an aam aadmi (a common man) but he has now become a khas aadmi (important man) who believes in legacy. He is using his daughter for campaigning. I also have a son, who is working at Google, but I will never ask him to campaign for me.

Water and electricity are Delhi’s two main issues. Kejriwal came to power convincing people he'd provide both free. How do you react to this?

For jhuggi clusters, we gave electricity connection at Rs 175 rupees per home. What he has done, is that he has given these poor people smart meters that are running at rocket’s speed, generating bills amounting to thousands. The New Delhi Municipal Council used to provide subsidised electricity to staff quarters but he has given powers to Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission, which has made our electricity more expensive. We also had to pay Rs 3,200 as the security deposit, which was Rs 500 for electrical manual meters. Our bill has risen 5-fold due to Kejriwal’s flawed policy.

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