Chandigarh, June 2: Durgesh Pathak, 27, the man entrusted with the responsibility to craft victory of the Aam Aadmi Party in Punjab in February, 2017 Assembly elections, joined the party as an ordinary worker and distributing pamphlets on the street of Delhi was his assignment. He worked his way hard to be the national organising secretary. After building the party organisation virtually from a scratch in Punjab, he is determined to maintain the tempo along with his team members of what has come to be the people’s movement. AAP represents alternative politics in the traditional Indian political discourse. The party is determined to repeat Delhi in Punjab in February, 2016.
Excerpts from his interview:
Q: How do you see the growth of the party in Punjab since 2014 Lok Sabha elections when AAP won four seats, the only state where you succeeded in opening the account.
A: I was not on the scene in Punjab at that time. The party had little organizational structure and there was no team effort. There was virtually no coordination or inner party communication. Still the results were spectacular as the people reposed faith in us. At one level, it was a challenge to carry forward that faith and I can today claim that the party graph has been on the rise. The ruling Akali Dal and opposition Congress had not even remotest of idea that AAP would assert its presence in such a massive way. Now we are under attack from both these parties being main challenger to them. We have succeeded in emerging as a force to reckon with as a result of the organized team effort to mobilise the people. Now every move in Punjab is well planned and these two parties would get a shock of their lives in the elections. You would see Delhi being repeated here in February 2017. The Akali Dal might be totally decimated. The Congress people are too demoralized.
Q: Two of your four MP rebelled long time back and continue to sing different tune. Is not is going to have adverse effect at least in the Assembly segments in their seat?
A: People had voted for the party in the Lok Sabha elections. Most of the people we put up were little known, some of them not even politicians. Still the results were favourable. Now we are under pressure to take action against the two suspended MPs Dr Dharam Vira Gandhi and Harinder Singh Khalsa.
Q: One of the main criticisms against your party is that of dictatorship by its convener and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. The party is under attack for being one man show. At least this is the perception in a section of the people who parted company in Punjab.
A: Everybody is free to level any allegation. We work under total freedom. I joined as a volunteer and my first assignment was to distribute pamphlets on the streets of Delhi. It is the hard work you put up that counts. I am just 27 but I have worked my up through putting in hard work. You join us to experience decision making and freedom to work.
Q: The dominant perception about the situation in Punjab is that people are for change and fed up with the two traditional parties alternating each other. The issue is more than of change. What would your party go about it?
A: The people want to teach a lesson to Both Parkash Singh Badal and Capt Amarinder Singh. However, the basic issue is that of reviving this once most prosperous state after the elections. Capt Aamrinder Singh can’t meet the expectations and aspirations of the people. The people want a change for the better. We have to create opportunities here.
Q: Can your party meet the expectations of the people in case elected to power?
A: The basic issue is of your intention and sincerity. The present political set up in Punjab is thoroughly corrupt. This is where AAP is different. It is the corrupt politicians who have damaged this state despite the fact that the people are hardworking and enterprising. The basic issues relate to efficient governance and transparent decision making while strengthening the institutions. Youth have their own aspirations.
Farm sector dominated by small and marginal farmers has different problems. Farming is not viable in small holdings of upto five acres and entire system would have to be changed. The new ruling party would have to adopt holistic approach. The immediate issues that need attention is rising debt burden on the farmers and better pricing.
Industrial sector has been goiung dfown during the last 20 years and industrial cities like Batala and Mandi Gobindgarh. Industry would have to be revived to ease pressure of population on agriculture. This can be done in case you have the intentions.
Q: Punjab is the classic case where progresss was achieved through private entrepreneurship and it is the government that has killed the initiative. Mandi Gobindgarh and Batala, once the industrial centres, are now ghost towns.
A: Government should be there as facilitator rather than putting up hurdles. People know why investment is not coming in Punjab. Once this government goes, there would not be uch difficulty in restoring the confidence of investor. Punjab needs capital investment to create jobs.
Q: Problems are identified but the issue is as to how to go about it.
A: Our party believes in participatory democracy. Decisions should not be imposed from above. We are doing it in Delhi by setting up gram sabhas. The panchayat system in the state has been corrupted. It is the people in the village who would have to be involved in decision making and in the mohalls in the urban areas. It is only by way of decentralizing decision making through participatory democracy that you can change the face of Punjab and restore its lost glory. Punjab missed the IT bus. Punjab represents the tragedy of missed opportunities.
Q: The talk in Punjab is that it would be the money power that would be at its ugliest display in February 2017 elections. Can AAP meet this challenge?
A: This election is going to be fought by the people. AAP is people’s movement and it is people who would giving befitting answer to this money power.
Q: At one level, the perception is that your campaign has already peaked.
A: There is nothing like peaking of campaign. The Akali Dal and the Congress have been in the field much before us in full strength. It is the people who are determined to change the scenario and that is our main strength and it is the people who would maintain this tempo.