Rampant corruption, lack of development in Gujarat shook me: Ashish Khetan (Interview) (Election Special)
It was a trip to Gujarat as part of Arvind Kejriwal's "fact-finding" team that "revealed the sham development claims" of BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and convinced him to fight the Lok Sabha polls, says Ashish Khetan, the investigative journalist turned AAP candidate for the New Delhi seat.
Khetan, 38, who quit his media job to join the Aam Admi Party (AAP) after last December's Delhi assembly elections, says the Kejriwal-led study tour "shook" him and he decided to take the plunge. Khetan, who runs the investigative news portal gulail.com, said in Gujarat they found "immense corruption and deplorable conditions".
"We had formed teams that visited several government departments across Gujarat. Our people found rampant corruption in the departments and amassive staff crunch," Khetan told IANS in an interview.
"Despite the claims of development, the people are living in deplorable conditions. The Gujarat condition seemed similar to the claims of development of (former chief minister) Sheila Dikshit in Delhi. That hurt me a lot," he said.
"So when senior party members proposed that I contest from New Delhi I finally agreed," he said.
Khetan is pitted against Congress heavyweight Ajay Maken and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) national spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi for the April 10 election.
Khetan is the second former journalist being fielded by AAP in Delhi. Ashutosh, a former IBN 7 anchor, is contesting against union minister and Congress heavyweight Kapil Sibal from the Chandni Chowk seat.
Sitting in the party office in Hanuman Road in the heart of the national capital, Khaitan, who knew many of the party members even before AAP was formally launched in 2012, said Dikshit's claims of development in Delhi has not improved the lives of the common man.
He says if elected he will raise the aam admi issues at the national level.
"For me nothing is a local issue. All issues which relate to the aam admi (common man) are on my agenda and I will take them to the national level," he said.
"Water, power, roads, corruption in Delhi Development Authority (DDA), employment and health would be my main focus agenda in my constituency."
The New Delhi Lok Sabha seat covers a huge area. The Lok Sabha constituency covers affluent upscale areas like Jor Bagh and Greater Kailash, to government colonies like Lodhi Road and R.K. Puram as well as slums, including Katputhli Colony. The AAP hopes to tap the large middle class and the slums in the constituency.
Khaitan said MPs are "scared" of raising questions in the house. "They even escape from attending parliament sessions. My party will end this culture and we will raise more and more questions.
"The first thing I will do is to start raising in parliament all the issues which directly relate to people," he said.
"According to a media report, Ajay Maken's presence was just 33 percent in the just-concluded parliament session," Khetan said.
Khetan is confident of getting the votes of AAP supporters in the New Delhi assembly constituency that voted overwhelmingly for Kejriwal in the Delhi elections, routing Sheila Dikshit.
"Definitely, it will benefit me. People of New Delhi assembly constituency are happy with AAP," he said.
Khetan earlier worked in Tehalka as editor, investigation, and in Headlines Today in the English news channel.
(Alok Singh can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
(Posted on 30-03-2014)