Bharatiya Janata Party has nominated Dr Harsh Vardhan as its chief ministerial candidate over Vijay Goel for Delhi Assembly Elections 2013. Fondly called ‘Dr Sahab’, Harsh Vardhan initiated the National Polio Surveillance Project in Delhi during his stint as state health minister between 1993 and 1998. The project later transformed into a national polio eradication campaign.
With the candidature of Dr Harsh Vardhan, the BJP is all set to exploit former health minister’s clean image to garner votes.
In an exclusive interview to Biplob Ghosal and Kamna Arora of Zee Media Corp, Dr Harsh Vardhan talks about his party’s prospects in the upcoming polls, the emergence of Aam Aadmi Party, the performance of Congress party and the case which pertains to the alleged rape of a maid working in the BJP’s CM candidate’s official residence in 1996.
Q: When you were chosen as the chief ministerial candidate of the BJP for Delhi elections, some people claimed that you were backed by the RSS and Narendra Modi. What do you have to say regarding this?
Dr Harsh Vardhan: There is no doubt that I was backed by everyone and it was a unanimous decision of the parliamentary board and that also included Narendra Modiji also. I have been a swayamsevak for 45 years, and RSS actually doesn’t interfere in the internal matters of the BJP. There was no infighting within the BJP on this issue of CM’s candidature.
Q: What kind of impact will Narendra Modi have on Delhi elections?
Dr Harsh Vardhan: Narendra Modi is a very popular leader of India. He has done so much for Gujarat. He has earned laurels for the party as well as the country because of his good governance. He is now being seen by everyone as the future prime minister of this country. After having been chosen as the PM candidate of the BJP, he has addressed many rallies in which lakhs of people gathered to listen to him, indicating his popularity and fame. He has also been given recognized for his good governance by the United Nations. So, if one is so popular, at both national and international level, he would certainly have impact on the elections.
Q: How will the Aam Aadmi Party affect Delhi polls this time?
Dr Harsh Vardhan: I have a strong feeling that Delhi elections will prove to be a contest between the BJP and Congress only. As far as these two parties are concerned, the BJP is far ahead in the race. Delhiites are wise enough to ensure that their votes are not wasted. On December 08, Delhi will have a new honest clean and transparent government, which will replace the old corrupt and inefficient government.
Q: Who, according to you, is a more challenging candidate - Arvind Kejriwal or Sheila Dikshit?
Dr Harsh Vardhan: The basic fight is between the BJP and the Congress. It is not a question of Arvind Kejriwal or Sheila Dikshit.
Q: Recently Kejriwal called you like Manmohan Singh. What do you have to say regarding this?
Dr Harsh Vardhan: I don’t know what Kejriwal meant to say, but I need not comment on everything that he utters. I think that by saying so, he has endorsed what the whole city feels about me that I am an honest man and committed to my work, and that is the perception about Dr Singh also.
Q. Will you accept his challenge for an open debate?
Dr Harsh Vardhan: Who is he to pose us a challenge? We talk to the people and we invite everyone in the world to have a debate with us. And in the name of a debate, we will not allow anybody to create nuisance. I can only say that in politics, maintenance of etiquette is very important. Dr Harsh Vardhan is a person who will leave politics rather than compromise on etiquettes.
Q. What are the issues you will be focussing on in the upcoming polls?
Dr Harsh Vardhan: The number one issue is that there has been a government which has been running the show for the last 15 years. There is a Chief Minister, who has been at the helm of affairs for the last 15 years, yet the government has failed on many basic fronts like inflation and corruption. Its history is full of scams, which is everyone is witness to. There is a total failure on many fronts, like water, providing uninterrupted power supply to people, keeping power bills and water bills under control, having adequate number of teachers in schools, having adequate medicines and doctors at hospitals. It’s total failure. Yamuna continues to be a big ganda naala. The state of people living in the JJ clusters as well as those in unauthorised colonies continues to be hellish. It is virtually total failure on all the fronts. The Public Distribution System in the city is thoroughly in shambles.
The government only issues various statements, promises various new things at the time of elections, and then conveniently forgets them all after polls.
Q: Keeping in mind the reasons you cited, why is that Congress came to power three consecutive times?
Dr Harsh Vardhan: I think in the last 15 years, the BJP has been supported by the citizens of Delhi on various occasions. We won all parliamentary seats in 1999. Then we won two successive corporation elections. And in last elections also, we won all the three municipal corporations of Delhi. In the last three Assembly polls, our tally has been increasing. It is unfair to say that people do not like us.
Q: What is your stand on Elections Commission’s view that opinion polls should be banned?
Dr Harsh Vardhan: I think the demand has been raised by the Congress at a time when the opinion polls are projecting that the ruling party is going to be the biggest loser in the upcoming Assembly as well as Parliamentary Elections. That is why, this viewpoint has come up. Personally, I do not either postively or negatively subscribe to the view that these opinion polls are giving positive or negative result. It actually does not affect me. I never feel happy with a positive result and never get saddened by a negative one. I feel that genuinely one should perform one’s duty and not bother about results.
Q: The Congress recently raked up a 17-year-old maid rape case. It may raise a question mark on your clean image. What do you have to say about this?
Dr Harsh Vardhan: Earlier, I had a lot of respect for Sheila Dikshit. But after this one particular incident, my respect for her has gone down. She is talking about a 17-year-old, not case, but a false allegation, which had no substance. There was no complaint. Dr Harsh Vardhan was neither named in the complaint nor in the so-called FIR. I am proud of the fact that I set up higher standard of transparency and accountability in public life by subjecting myself to a DNA test for which even police was reluctant. The result of the DNA test was negative. The Congress politicians kept pursuing, you can say hitting below the belt, even at that time. I had, in fact, issued a show cause notice to Mr Jag Pravesh Chandra, Mrs Krishna Tirath and Tajdar Babar. It was a defamation suit.
Mr Chandra had later apologised. A lot of people had apologised in writing at that time. And the case, if you go and see police records, the FIR does not talk of Harsh Vardhan. The complaint does not talk of Harsh Vardhan. The DNA tests of the gardener and the servant, whose names were there in the complaint, came out to be negative. So, how does the Congress’ allegation hold any ground? Anyone can get information in this regard through RTI. Even if, hypothetically, I were guilty, what has Congress done in the last 15 years? Even during this campaign, why did they not rake up this issue on the day I was declared the CM candidate. Now when they are facing a defeat, they are thoroughly convinced they are going to be routed. Now, they are raising these issues.
The other day, Congress went to the Election Commission and claimed Dr Vardhan had nothing to do with polio. You belong to Zee News. That is why I am saying, you ask your chairman about Dr Harsh Vardhan’s involvement in polio eradication. Zee News was the channel which supported us so much with the publicity for developing this programme, ensuring the success of the programme in Delhi and then making it a national programme. I received so many international awards for this. I am no longer in need of an award or a certificate form Sheila Dikshit. Moreover, on record, I have challenged her that if she wants I can contest in the Delhi polls only on the issue of my involvement in polio eradication and also this so-called character assassination campaign against me. I don’t need any certificate form Sheila Dikshit.
Q: What is your message to Delhi electorate?
Dr Harsh Vardhan: My message is very simple. You have a city government which has failed to deliver, and a central government in New Delhi, which has also failed to deliver. Both the governments have been mired in corruption and scams. They have failed to control inflation and they virtually failed on all the fronts. If the people of Delhi want to get rid of Congress, they should vote for the BJP. They should not waste their votes.