National

‘The voice of Delhi has to reach Parliament’

Richa Mishra New Delhi | Updated on March 26, 2019 Published on March 25, 2019

“It was clear to us that social movements and activism can only take us so far in our mission. So we decided to become part of the system (mainstream) and bring a change,” says Atishi Aam Aadmi Party’s East Delhi Lok Sabha candidate.

BusinessLine caught up with the unassuming and matter of fact 38-year-old at AAP’s Shastri Nagar Office, Geeta Colony, New Delhi.

The constituency — with 18 lakh voters — is not what Lutyens’ Delhi most see or hear about. The challenges here are different: poverty, infrastructure, basic amenities... But, Atishi says she is prepared for the challenge.

Bringing social change

Asked if she ever thought of being in mainstream politics, she said: “While I had not been involved in politics, I was an active social/student activist…After I returned from Oxford, I spent 5-6 years in a village in Madhya Pradesh — 25 km outside Bhopal — along with a group of people working with the communities. But, over time, we realised that there were just too many constraints, and for ordinary citizens to be the change agent was not that easy.”

This was also the time when the “India Against Corruption” movement was on, and as a social activist, it excited Atishi. “It was for the first time a movement where more than a handful of people stepped out of their homes and were asking for change,” she said adding “Otherwise, you had the same set of activists who you would see on every issue.”

“I started volunteering with Indian Against Corruption as part of a policy research team sometime in 2012. As it happened , India Against Corruption transformed into a political party — AAP. So I transitioned from being a volunteer involved with a social movement to being a volunteer with a political party,” she said.

Today, she is a member of AAP’s Political Affairs Committee. She has been a spokesperson of the party since 2013.

As a spokesperson, how did she deal with the falling quality of political discourses? “I am probably more protected because I am in AAP. But, let us be honest. Everyone who comes into public life has to face it some time or the other. So basically, develop your own immune system.”

Women in the party

When AAP was conceived as a political party, were there any deliberations on the issue of women’s representation in the core team? “Politics also reflects the fault lines in our society and the fact is that it is not very easy for any marginalised group to come forward in any domain. Politics is far more complex and difficult than other professions as it involves takeover of your own personal life…I think representation of women will happen if there is reservation,” she said.

“We do have a shortfall at the top level. But, interestingly, while women may not be well-represented in our leadership, in our rank and file and middle-level leadership, we have a far greater base of women who have independently joined. Gradually, they are also occupying positions,” she added.

Atishi agreed that political funding is the biggest fault line that “our democracy” faces, as the government and politicians end up working for those who have funded them rather than those who have voted for them. “AAP seeks donations from ordinary people. I am running a crowd-funding campaign (atishi.in/donate) for my elections,” she said.

What will she promise her voters? “We (AAP) will tell them that when they voted for AAP, they got cheaper electricity, access to free piped water, better schools and hospitals. Now, we are asking them to vote for more college admissions for children from Delhi, government jobs and greater security for women. And all these can happen if we get full statehood. This time, the voice of Delhi voice has to reach parliament. The struggle for Delhi statehood is what we are going to take to Parliament,” she said

Published on March 25, 2019
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