Congress confident

Ajay Maken is the chief of Congress’ campaign committee for Delhi, effectively making him the party’s face for the forthcoming Assembly elections. The three-time MLA in Delhi, two-time MP and a former minister at the Centre, Maken claims that from 1998 to 2013, the Congress government not only transformed the city, but also its governance system and culture. He spoke to Vishnu Sukumaran of Deccan Herald. Excerpts:

You have been tasked with one of the most challenging electoral assignments of leading the Congress into an election where it is trailing at third place. What has been your strategy and what do you plan to improve party’s position?

The Congress party has a record of delivering on its promises and the 15-year-rule of the government in Delhi is a testimony to the party’s ability to govern well and fulfill its promises. During the past one year, after the 49-day rule of the AAP, and thereafter Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung’s administration under the direct control of the BJP-ruled Central government, the development works in Delhi, started by the Congress government, have been pushed back by several years. We changed the face of Delhi to make it a world class city on par with the finest global cities.

The Congress party had managed to win only eight seats out of 70 in the 2013 elections, doesn’t it mean that the citizens of Delhi have lost faith in the party?
The BJP and AAP had made tall promises before the elections of 2013 and LS elections of 2014 like reducing electricity tariff by 30 to 50 per cent, bringing down prices of essential commodities and checking crime against women. It distracted the voters. But none of these hollow promises could be fulfilled, neither by the BJP nor the AAP. These parties had also taken out candlelight marches to protest against rape incidents and sat on dharnas at Jantar Mantar and other places, but now they are keeping a deafening silent posture when crime, particularly cases of rapes has reached an all-time high.

But even during the 15-year-rule of the Congress, the citizens of Delhi were besieged with steep hike in electricity and water tariff, long power cuts, water shortage and unchecked price rise is essential commodities. What do you have to say about that?
If voted to power, we will announce significant cuts in electricity and water tariff and waive pending water bills. We will work towards slashing power tariff to Rs 1.50 per unit for consumption up to 200 units per month against current rate of Rs 2.80. We will also carry out major expansion of Delhi Metro, give concessional metro passes for students, increase pension to all deserving categories to Rs 2,000 per month, hike the salary of aganwadi workers by upto 50 per cent and provide 24x7 diagnostic centres in state-run hospitals. There are also plans to launch cyber cafes in all constituencies and ensure wi-fi facilities in public transport.

Congress has a history of sitting on its laurels. Don’t you think there is more need to work on problems that affect the people of Delhi?
We have identified many areas where more work could be done in future. We had begun the process of regularising unauthorised colonies, re-development of such colonies by providing them with all civic amenities. We also focus on making Delhi pollution-free and enhancing the green cover. We had introduced a world-class metro system which has a scope and reach of getting bigger and better, and a modern bus system with the introduction of low floor AC and non-AC buses and the cluster bus service.

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