In an exclusive interview with DKODING, AAP’s Gopal Rai talks about the politics of development, positivity, nationalism and more…
Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) Gopal Rai is not new to politics. In a way, he has invested all his life to causes that matter to people. He came to prominence after a verbal spat with then Army Chief V K Singh, (now a BJP MP) in 2013, during Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement.
Gopal Rai has been instrumental in building the party. A natural orator, as Delhi State Convener, Rai is one of the prominent faces in AAP’s campaigns and public meetings.
In 2020, as Delhi (im) patiently waits to write its fate for the coming 5 years – AAP and Rai have put their trust in Delhi’s people. In fact, AAP’s first stint in governance during the last five years has further matured Rai’s political ideology. Rai explains, “Earlier, we believed that the system would change through agitation (aandolan) but once we formed the government, we realized that the entire system needs a revamp.”
Fighting A Crippled System
Fighting a crippled and corrupt system isn’t new to him either. Rai has been organizing and agitating since his student politics days. He is inspired by India’s freedom struggle. Ram Prasad Bismil’s, “Mera Rang De Basanti Chola” is his favourite song. Positivity is his approach to everything he does and his strategies need no management book – his expertise stems from his experience.
Rai has been at the core of AAP’s reforms in Delhi. He is a member of the National Executive, member of the Political Affairs Committee, as well as Delhi Cabinet Minister for Rural Development, General Administration Department, Irrigation and Flood Control and Labour.
On a cold winter morning, Rai greeted us in his constituency Babarpur. Surrounded by people, Rai patiently conversed with kindness in his eyes, quick solutions on his lips and a calming reassurance.
Read below the excerpts from the AAP National Convener Gopal Rai interview…
What inspires you to keep on day after day?
In1947, India won freedom after a century of struggle. With it came a dream of prosperity and change, but even after seven decades the promises of the founding fathers remain unfulfilled.
This unfulfilled dream of a progressive, equal and prosperous India inspires me to work tirelessly and make my humble contribution towards the fulfilment of that dream.
From the Jan Lokpal movement to forming a government and now gearing up to recontest… How far has AAP come in these 5 years?
Earlier, we believed that citizen protests had the ability to change the system. But once we formed the government, we understood that the entire system has crashed in itself.
Approach to governance in India needs a major change. This meant that we needed to fight and work hard 24*7 to first dream and then deliver it to the people.
AAP government has an unprecedented welfarist approach to policy-making. How do you plan to go ahead maintaining that streak?
We came in power on the back of a record 67 seat victory. That kind of mandate put a lot of pressure on us to fulfill the hope and demands of the people. Add to that the fact that the center has been adamant to not let us implement our approach to politics.
It was a tough ask but we are happy that even after countless hurdles, under the leadership of Arvind Kejriwal, AAP has brought in a new model of governance to Delhi.
In our first tenure, we focused on education and healthcare as our priorities. Going ahead, we will focus on transportation and curbing the menace of pollution in Delhi. Talking about the reforms and policies so far, we guarantee to continue them in the next 5 years. We will also review the success of reforms and prioritize fulfilling gaps.
You’re one of the ‘Master Strategists’ at AAP – What’s your approach to campaign management and policy-making?
There are three things on our mind. Firstly, nothing is impossible. Secondly, we believe in people. And finally, we want to make every effort to achieve our targets. Basing our approach on these three aspects, we draw our strategy from the ground level and up.
By this I mean, we go to the ground and check where fault lines exist. AAP’s senior leaders have walked through each and every lane of Delhi.
If we see a gap, we analyze, recheck, redesign and ensure that a solution is implemented.
Can you give us an example…?
In the Lok Sabha elections, AAP slipped to the third place in Delhi in terms of vote share. That also hit the morale of our party cadres and volunteers. Media speculation ripened and brought negativity and blame game to the ranks.
Taking cues from the setback, we created a strategy, connected people with a positive mindset and formed the ‘Kejriwal brigade’ of 600 volunteers. The brigade went and communicated with people directly.
From the initiative, we received a very positive response from the people. Majority opined that they wanted Kejriwal government in Delhi despite of what happened in the Lok Sabha elections.
Post that, we changed our strategy. I personally started a ‘Jan-Samvaad’ yatra (a public dialogue forum) and spoke with the public extensively. This proved to be a game-changer and brought back confidence to the party.
Tell us about the Babarpur constituency… Why they put their trust in you?
Babarpur has always been subject to a polarized Raajneeti (politics). It’s equal Hindu and Muslim population has been historically exploited by politicians based on sentiments. This hit the fate of the area which lags far behind the developed part of Delhi.
However, when AAP came into power, we made people realize that standing above Hindu-Muslim narrative and voting for work is the only way development can happen that benefits people.
It was 5 years ago that the people of Babarpur turned a new page in electoral history. As much as I thank them for their decision, I can also proudly saw that more work was done here during these 5 years than in the last 50.
What is your definition of Nationalism?
For me, there are two types of nationalism –positive and negative. Any person, society or a nation can move forward only on the basis of positive nationalism.
India won the aazadi ki ladai (freedom struggle) because we implemented positive nationalism by uniting each part of the society. During the first freedom movement against the East India Company in 1857, it was rising over religion that motivated the likes of Bahadur Shah Zafar, Rani Laxmi Bai, and Nana Sahib to stand up to a much bigger colonial power. Positive nationalism is central to the prospect of a better future.
On the other hand, negative nationalism can gain power but can’t provide solutions. It targets and polarizes repeatedly by creating false illusions. In my view, our country needs positive nationalism to attain the dreams unfulfilled since the freedom struggle.
What were the yardsticks to determine the party’s choice of new candidates?
There were three things we had in our survey – the work the MLA did in the last 5 years. Next was how much the person cooperated with the government’s mission. Lastly, their behaviour and perception among people. After extensive groundwork, we took our decisions and decided to make changes as per the feedback.
If elected back to power, what would be AAP’s vision 2025?
AAP will chart out Delhi’s future along with the people. In our first term, we implemented reforms that were not in our manifesto – targeted electricity, water and transport subsidies, safety measures like CCTVs etc.
In our second term too, we will interact with people and develop the agenda moving forward. As a party, we believe that every struggling individual needs a friend, and our government will stand beside each and every person in their struggles and create a better living situation in Delhi.
Copy Edited by Chitresh Sehgal / Featured Image & Video by Sandesh Chaudhary
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