4:40 am - Thursday November 19, 2015

AAP made me a sacrificial lamb in Lok Sabha elections: Shazia Ilmi

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New Delhi: Controversy has become synonymous with Shazia Ilmi, the former Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader. By her own admission, even when she did something good, it appeared as a controversy and when she maintained silence, it became a source of rumours. But, this time with the Delhi election around the corner, she’s determined not to allow speculation and rumours to gain ground. She makes it clear that she won’t contest the assembly poll from any political party – Ilmi contesting on a BJP ticket has been doing the rounds for some time. At that same time she’s not quitting politics either; instead she wants to make herself relevant in a new role. In an exclusive interview to Firstpost, Shazia Ilmi discusses her past, present and future course of action in Delhi politics.

Would you explain the circumstances of your separation from AAP, the party you co-founded?

The Aam Aadmi Party was formed with a desire to bring a positive transformation in politics; to provide alternative politics. But, gradually it turned into a coterie-driven party. Internal democracy was missing. I gradually discovered that I was nowhere in the decision-making process, despite being a member of National Executive. Any voice of dissent wasn’t tolerated. As a result of my questioning party’s few decisions, I was systematically removed from the post of national spokesperson and gradually I started feeling cornered. I hate to become a ‘Yes man’ and blindly follow even if something is wrong.

Why did AAP fail to implement Swaraj within the party?

It’s because the decision-making process remained concentrated in a coterie of two or three leaders only. Arvind Kejriwal always criticised the ‘high command’ system in other political parties, but he let it thrive within the party. He lacks magnanimity and virtually didn’t allow anyone to evolve in the second line leadership. Lokpal Bill, Swaraj, etc took a backseat. The dynamics of being in power made the AAP like any other political party. There’s no transparency in financial dealings, nothing is clear on policy front and the party doesn’t have an economic plan to offer to the voters. But, the moment you question, you’ll fall out of favour. It gradually became parochial and vindictive. Hence, several leaders and members quit.

There were rumours earlier that you would be joining the Congress, now it’s the BJP.

Even, if I don’t do anything, rumour or controversy often takes place. When I left the AAP, Arvind on a television channel said since I was joining the Congress, I had left AAP, which was not true. I never joined Congress. PM’s Swachch Bharat mission is a great mission and one shouldn’t allow rotten apples to spoil a good mission.

Are you joining any political party or any chance to go back in AAP?

Going back in AAP is out of question. In between, several parties approached me including Lok Satta Party etc. I’m trying to get over with what I went through mentally and financially. I’ve almost lost all my savings as I didn’t get any financial support from the party. It was highly disappointing. It’ll take little more time for me to join a new party, but positively I’ll do. I’ll join a party only if I get opportunity to bring some positive change, unlike AAP.

Any plan to contest the forthcoming Delhi assembly election?

No, right now I don’t want to contest any election – whether it’s assembly or Lok Sabha poll. My last two elections were a traumatic experience. I was compelled to contest from RK Puram seat in the assembly election. I was made a sacrificial lamb during the Lok Sabha poll by being asked to contest from Ghaziabad despite my strong opposition. In both the polls, I didn’t get any cooperation from the top leadership, rather I became a victim of conspiracy and as a result I lost.

What role do you see for yourself in this election?

There is a big role I see for myself in public life and I want to make a difference. I’m already working among autowallahs, e-rickshaw drivers and rag-pickers. We’ll go to all the three parties with charter of demands, and ask them what plans they do have for betterment of this section. Even, after the government is formed, we’ll mobilise their issues.

What prospect do you see about the AAP in the forthcoming poll?

It was a great opportunity lost for the AAP to have emerged as a real alternative political force. The party leadership didn’t allow others any space. Some good measures were taken by Arvind as CM, but after some time, he stopped listening to people. He got stuck with a group which obviously did not guide him right. AAP still has a following in slums and resettlement colonies, but in large number of places its popularity is on decline, especially among the middle-class voters. Even, a large section that backed AAP blindly is in a state of confusion.

How do you analyse the BJP and the PM Modi’s leadership so far?

The BJP has to walk the talk and be more inclusive. Till now there’s no overt communal fervour except in the case of Muzaffarnagar. There’s a new churning among Muslim community, and they want to come out of traditional narrow, parochial politics. The PM has exhibited a strong leadership and discipline, which is the need of the hour. Though he’s said to be from the RSS background, his invocation of Mahatma Gandhi is something new to me.

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