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‘Congress has put its trust in young people’

Last updated on January 30, 2020

The feisty MLA whom the Congress has fielded from Chandni Chowk is going hammer and tongs at her former party’s chief Arvind Kejriwal, and is dismissive about the BJP’s chances of making a dent 

Alka Lamba will be contesting again from Chandni Chowk constituency, this time from the Congress Party, with which she had been associated for 20 years before joining the Aam Aadmi Party in 2014. Last year, she quit AAP, alleging disrespect shown to her. 

In this conversation she tells Patriot her major poll issue would be the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC). She says her former party colleague Arvind Kejriwal rejected an invite for the screening of Chhapak: “This silence, you think, will make you win. All you do is free free free”. 

Before she filed her nominations, she was seen almost everyday at Jama Masjid sitting amongst women of the area, protesting against the CAA and NRC. You could say that’s when her campaign began. 

Your opponent from AAP is someone who lost to you in the last elections…

Arvind Kejriwal has put a mask of honesty and of one fighting corruption, but this nomination has unmasked him. In 2015, the person he had called beiman, bhrasht, he has given ticket to five years later. But it’s not just here — it’s the same case in Matia Mahal and Dwarka, where Adarsh Shastri, the grandson of Lal Bahadur Shastri, who gave up his 1-crore job (for AAP). Now you have given the ticket to the person Shastri beat in 2015. 

Your target most of the time is the Aam Aadmi Party. Do you not count the BJP as competition?

Not at all. If you look at the past election results of Chandni Chowk, the minority population here never votes for the BJP. Even when AAP first came, the election in 2013 and 2015 they (BJP) thought the votes will get divided between AAP and Congress and they’ll manage to win. But that did not happen. That’s why (we) remove the BJP from the fight. 

Now look at Kejriwal and his MLA nominees, they are politicians he tagged as corrupt in 2015. He made them lose and relegated them to third position. Now they are his nominees. 

In 2015-16 they used to say Alka Lamba is a responsible girl, you saw her record in the party. I had to work hard for over a year. It wasn’t that one day I joined and I was given a ticket. We had even gone to Varanasi to fight for Arvind Kejriwal. From 2014 when our government fell, it took a year for us to come back to power. We worked hard on the streets, created organisations, worked honestly but Arvind Kejriwal removed people like Alka Lamba, Adarsh Shastri, because they didn’t suit that area’s caste equation. 

And Congress has given space to people like Alka Lamba and Adarsh Shastri who had won on the issue of honesty in 2015. 

You were speaking about how your constituency has many illicit liquor shops. In 2015 you were on the wrong side of the law and even had a case booked against you…

No, this is completely wrong that I was on the wrong side of the law. The same year I had won, I organised the anti-drug drive from August 9 to 15. We placed addicts in de-addiction centres, gave them counselling and even got them jobs. The drug mafias did not like this, they attacked me with stones; instead there’s a case lodged on me for looting a sweet shop. 

The ones who created a ruckus were BJP people, the ones doing drug business were them. Go to Majnu Ka Tila or Madrasi colony in Mori Gate which has a high number of substance abusers. Who was the MLA for the past 25 years? It was the same person who Arvind Kejriwal is now putting up as the MLA hopeful. 

I have challenged him openly: bring your son and I will bring mine and both will swear keeping our hands on their heads that neither we nor our party has ever during elections given away liquor or drugs. I am ready to do this. He has never done anything to counter drug abuse. Whereas I, with the help of women, have caught drugs and protested.  

I will say Arvind Kejriwal ji has given ticket to drug mafia. For me this fight is ongoing and will continue with the support of the women of the area. And even in these elections I will make this an issue. 

What other issues would you focus on?

Here there are many young people who are poor, they are just sitting at home, they have no jobs. In this bad economy, their stoves are cold. So this is a big issue for me, and safety of women is also a big issue. 

Why did you decide to join the protests at Jama Masjid?

I went to the women of my constituency and spoke to them and asked them if they have been reading the newspaper or watching the news about how our sisters have been sitting at Shaheen Bagh, not for themselves but for all of us. That this protest was against the Citizenship law. 

When I explained to them this Act, I asked them, could we meet every evening for an hour at Jama Masjid, to render support to those who are raising their voice against this law? Especially students from Jamia Milia Islamia, Jawaharlal Nehru University and Delhi University. 

Those people (critics of the protests) say that the protestors are “uneducated, they don’t understand what is CAA, NRC”. But I ask, what about the kids from Jamia? You can’t call them nor JNU students uneducated. 

We educated people here about the law as well. Once they understood, they themselves decided to meet on January 1 of the new year. People of all faiths came to Jama Masjid. Every day people meet, read the preamble, and Article 14 which says that one cannot discriminate on basis of religion. 

We have the largest population after China. Our country’s problems are the economy, unemployment, (lack of) women’s safety, infrastructure…there are just so many things that need to be done. But you are confusing the entire country’s people. Will one get a job out of this? 

If our passport, ration card, voter ID card, and Aadhar card don’t prove our citizenship maybe then tomorrow even this will not be able to prove it. 

The NRC should not happen. It’s the government’s failure that they are unable to hear the voices of dissent and instead choose to go inside a campus like Jamia. Even in JNU…How do these people protest? They write songs about revolution, they beat drums, they sing, but you are unable to tolerate this.

One has to agree that this government has one agenda and that is to make this a Hindu Rashtra. 

So, when you joined the protests at Jama Masjid, you weren’t going as a politician? 

I’m not giving any political speeches. Yes, outside this place (Jama Masjid) I have gone to areas and had 50 meetings where I’ve told people why we are against this law. Why give the right of citizenship and mention all the religions except Muslims? I ask, what about Malala? She fought for the right to education and she was shot for that. If she would have asked for asylum in India, would you have given it or would you have asked her to leave? 

They are refugees, but when the Congress was in power you used to say they are intruders whom  Congress brought in from Bangladesh for their votebank. When they (BJP) came to power in Assam they changed their words, calling them refugees from their earlier ‘intruders’ label. This happened overnight. 

Then you brought NRC and made them show their papers. There were 19 lakh people who couldn’t show their documents and you started to put them in detention camps. Modi said there aren’t any detention camps, that there’s no talk of an NRC, then you have taken people out of their homes and then brought this law. 

(After the law was brought in) You then went into these detention camps and overnight said Hindu, Sikh, Christians come out. If they don’t have papers you got them made, but Muslims had to stay back. What are they? Intruders or are they refugees? 

Will the CAA and NRC be the major issues for you, for the elections?

We didn’t want this to be an issue during the elections for Delhi, but they have made it into an issue. Our issues are the GDP, economy, women’s safety, unemployment. This is a huge country and we have a lot of issues but then when you brought this (CAA) in, then yes, we will have to fight the elections on this. They have decided that by having elections on this topic they will divide the Hindu- Muslim votes and they will be benefitted. 

The minority community was never with them and by doing all this they think Hindus would come to one side. But no, look at Jamia, JNU and DU, the young students are from different religions. They are protesting together. So, it’s better if people decide here itself; If here the BJP government does not win, it will prove it. 

The BJP knows that they are not going to form the government in Delhi. 

I have been part of the AAP, I was an MLA from that party. Arvind Kejriwal was there for the Anna (Hazare) Andolan, for the Jan Lokpal, during the Congress government. You said there is corruption, now why don’t you come to Ram Lila Maidan, Arvind-ji?

These are the same students who have been there with you protesting for a change in the country but now when they are looking for you, you aren’t going to the universities, you aren’t going to the hospitals to meet the students who were beaten up. You aren’t going to the police station where they are loading false cases against students. So, I think his silence shows that this is the B-Team of the BJP, that “Stay quiet on the citizenship law and we will support you and our vote is for you”. 

If Congress comes to power, the stand is clear. Where the Congress party comes, the citizenship law will not be allowed to be enforced. Our state governments will not cooperate with the Centre. As the BJP is not coming to power, they have told the Kejriwal government to stay quiet. 

So basically the votes will not get divided for the AAP, if it remains silent? 

He wants to keep people confused. Whenever you ask a question on NRC he says talk about the economy, talk about poverty, speak about school education. They are issues, and we say we will talk on it, who says we won’t? But when your stand is required on this now, when you’re being asked about it, then you are silent. You can lead people astray by staying silent. 

When the conversation of abrogation of 370 came up you were against it, but when they removed it you supported them (the Centre). This is cheating. In Delhi, you fight for full statehood but when J&K’s full statehood was removed you supported it? 

Even for Sabarimala, what is your stand? You toe the line of BJP because then your power seat will remain with you. And that’s your job to divide the Congress vote. 

It is expected of Arvind-ji that he makes his stand clear. 

I am giving you an example. Arvind-ji loves to watch films. A movie releases and he would go with his friends and family for the first show. When people were speaking against Deepika Padukone’s film Chhapak because she went to show her support silently, to the students of JNU — our daughters who were beaten by goondas, and India Today has shown who these goondas were, they were of the ABVP — we booked the entire Delite cinema. 

We collected money amongst each other and booked the theatre for students including those from Jamia and JNU. We then invited Kejriwal, which we thought, along with watching a film, will also send across a message that he backs the cause — as it’s a movie about an acid attack victim. Thirdly, it would have sent a message that you are against the boycott of Padukone’s film because she showed her support to the students of JNU. It would have also shown how much you understand the NRC law. But you didn’t come. This silence you think will make you win. All you do is free free free. 

Ask students, who wants the free bus tickets? The girls would say along with safety we want employment, respect, which we will get through a job, better employment, better economy, then I would buy the ticket myself. 

Where there are many women standing at a bus stop, they don’t stop the bus for them. They are taken as freeloaders. Subsidy is different, giving them a little relief. But even that is not a permanent solution. 

Mrs Gandhi has given the fight to be led by us young people. Now Sheila-ji is not there so we are to take this fight forward. We want 36 numbers here in Delhi and we will achieve it. 

So, you think the Congress will be able to get these many seats?

This is the minimum required to form a government and I’m quite sure that we will achieve it. When you speak about Sheila ji, she has made Delhi what it is. 

Who is saying now that Delhi has become a gas chamber? What has the government which has been in power for the last six years done? In Delhi, we are not in the MCDs, we don’t have a single MP, not one MLA, what did Delhi get? People say that at least during the Congress rule people ate rotis. 

Sheila-ji’s mission was Green Delhi. She was a well behaved, educated woman. I am from Delhi. I have studied hard in government schools of Delhi, and have reached to where I am. But those who are ruling over Delhi don’t know nothing about it. 

I’m not saying that other people have no contribution in making Delhi what it is. There are several migrants from UP, Bihar who have a huge role in what Delhi is today, they have a right here. But Delhi was made better by Sheila ji with their help. 

Arvind ji is not from Delhi, he came from Haryana for a protest and caught Delhi. You were so honest, there should have been a long line of people trying to join you but no one is coming to you because they know you compromised. You don’t have the confidence to go up to people and say you have done anything for corruption. Instead you are calling those you have called as corrupt. People had rejected them in 2015 and you want them. 

But people seem to be backing the AAP for its education and Mohalla Clinics.

Walk out from here, and a few feet away there’s a Mohalla Clinic. On paper, it exists, I was an MLA, I know. Some people said to me we will take you and show you where the government land is, there mafia has taken over. 

I fought, we took a bulldozer and ran it over. With the help of our IPS officer and the District Magistrate Nidhi Srivastava, I fought for that Mohalla Clinic. 

Homes have become dens for addictions but Kejriwal will show the photos of a few Mohalla Clinics. You can make a documentary and show the poor people but the educated will know the truth. 

In Mori Gate, there’s a four-storey school which was made by Sheila-ji. The windows are broken, children are studying with newspaper pasted on their window frames. Go there and see. 

He has made one school and one Mohalla Clinic, spent crores on it and shows it in various advertisements and breaks the Congress vote. 

Why did Shashi Bhushan leave you? Why did Prashant Bhushan, Yogendra Yadav, HS Phulka, Ashish Khetan, Ashutosh? Prof Anand Kumar of JNU. Why did they leave? Because you made a deal. And we know the RS seat tickets were sold. We thought for sure Yogendra Yadav will get and for law Prashant Bhushan will get but instead you gave tickets to people who lost on congress tickets. And you said they were of your baradari. Which means you look at people’s caste and religion.