By Nitin Kesar
From holding meetings in parks to ‘Mohallah Sabhas,’ MLA Somnath Bharti is trying out different ways to reach out to the people of his Malviya Nagar constituency in South Delhi. During the recently held meeting of the Aam Aadmi Party’s Political Affairs Committee, he was appointed as a Sah Prabhari (Independent Charge) to look after Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshwadeep and Puducherry.
In an exclusive interview with NewsGram, former Law Minister of Delhi shared his thoughts on AAP’s strategy for South India, his plans for his constituency and the change in the system that is coming slowly. Excerpts:
Nitin Kesar- What are your views about Andaman and Nicobar as a political seat, since AAP is expanding there?
Somnath Bharti- I have been given the charge of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshwadeep and Puducherry, and each of them is of paramount importance. AAP is not about the political ambitions of a group of people. It is about Indian people getting their due, which they deserve on account of being independent. It is about giving power to the people so that they can decide their own fate.
NK- The politics in the south is very much regional. How is AAP planning to connect with the people there?
SB- AAP isn’t trying to inject people from outside. We are trying to find local people who want a system that responds to local needs, truly and honestly. The locals will trigger ideology conceptualized by them.
NK- How difficult is this challenge for AAP?
SB– Initially, I thought it’d be very challenging. But after I met the local volunteers, I did not have the same opinion. They are so enthusiastic and selfless, with a drive to turn the system people-centric.
NK- What about Andaman? Hardly anybody talks about that place and politics in the same breath. What are the chances of an AAP victory there?
SB- Andaman has a mixed population like Delhi. There are Hindi, Telugu, and Bengali speaking people. We have about 2% votes there and our volunteers there will be able to build a strong base.
NK- What’s the general vision for the constituency?
SB- I’ve inherited a system in ICU, and I am trying to bring it to a normal ward with my work, by bringing new technology. Till now, leaders have not been available to the common people. However, we are accessible 24*7. People can come anytime they want and there is no ‘dalal’ (tout).
NK- What’s the impact of AAP’s policies on people?
SB – If your body becomes habitual to poison, its detoxification takes time. They believe an MLA is too big a man. For them to take me as Aam Aadmi will take time although it is happening. They have started taking me as a brother or a friend. But the comfort level that one finds between friends is still amiss at times. Specially, in people from poor colonies.
NK- What’s the mechanism for the policies to reach the downtrodden?
SB- Our Modus Operandi is bottom up. On every Saturday, there is a Mohallah Sabha and I’ve got four wards. We have all the authorities there. People come and put all the problems in front of them. Then they are given a date by when their problem will be resolved by the authorities.
NK- Three main priorities?
SB- First is water and sewage problem. It’s embarrassing that after 67 years, a constituency like Malviya Nagar (MN), which is mostly posh has water and sewage problem. I don’t know what BJP and Congress did so far. They have been deliberately inefficient. It’s not like they were not intelligent enough to solve the problems, but they used that intelligence to loot them.Security is another big problem. I’ve installed cameras in the market. These are good cameras with a range of 100 meters. Being a technology savvy person myself, I have been able to tell the specifications of the cameras.I have decided to turn MN into a model constituency.
NK – Time?
SB- This will take time but within a year we’ll see tangible changes. But the status quo is scared of changes. It doesn’t want change to happen. It feels that if the fundamental questions of people are answered then who will answer their next level of questions? Huge talent is available and it needs to be put to action.
NK- What about the WiFi model? What are technological hurdles being faced?
SB: I decided WiFi for my constituency initially and then the party picked it up to be implemented all over Delhi. I am grateful that the party picked up my proposal. Now they are planning pan-Delhi. I am not a part of the team which is planning this, so I can’t say much.
NK- What has your learning experience been so far as a politician?
SB- You have to be very patient, and be ready to get abused. Being a politician so far had been a position of exploitation. Till the time people see you differently, they will not understand you. If I go to a place and have a cup of tea, it becomes a big thing. People say how humble I am. This is because MLAs till now were VVIPs. A few days back, I went to some houses in the morning to see if the water supply was proper, and they couldn’t believe that an MLA could ever come to their house to inquire about their problems. This is my spirit of service. For me, politics is a spiritual journey to serve human beings.
NK- In your constituency, are you planning any measures to curb pollution?
SB- Pollution, or for that matter any problem, arises when there is self-interest. We have decided to have last man connectivity to people, so they don’t bring their cars to the metro.
NK- What about the green cover?
SB- I celebrated my birthday by planting 100 saplings. I am going to celebrate every event in this way. The idea is that the moment you leave out your selfish interest, a politician can do wonders. You have money, power, and know-how about foreign advancements.