Former Delhi minister and senior Congress leader Arvinder Singh Lovely has said people like Gautam Gambhir and Atishi Marlena are fighting the Lok Sabha election as if it is a "political picnic", holding that they do not have either connect with the people or understanding about their hardships.
The BJP has fielded cricketer-turned politician Gambhir while AAP has given ticket to Atishi Marlena from East Delhi Lok Sabha constituency which will witness a triangular electoral battle, with Congress pitting Lovely against them.
Both Gambhir, who joined the BJP earlier this month, and Marlena, a postgraduate from Oxford University and a member of AAP's Political Affairs Committee, are making their electoral debuts. "The BJP has given ticket to such a person (Gambhir) who has no direct link with politics. He does not have any sense of issues confronting people in trans-Yamuna area," Lovely told PTI in an interview.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, BJP's incumbent MP Maheish Girri had defeated AAP's Rajmohan Gandhi by more than 1.9 lakh votes in East Delhi.
Congress's candidate Sandeep Dikshit came a distant third. Delhi, which sends seven members to the Lower House of Parliament, is going to polls in the sixth phase of Lok Sabha elections on May 12. Lovely, who held crucial portfolios like transport, education and urban development, during the Sheila Dikshit-led government, said he was proud that Gambhir played cricket for Delhi and the country, but he "does not have any understanding of politics".
"Also, it is not sure whether he (Gambhir) will give up his other works.
He lives in Mumbai. On the other hand, the AAP has brought its candidate (Atishi Marlena) from Oxford University. Both the BJP and AAP candidates are in the electoral fray as if it is a political picnic," Lovely, a former Delhi Congress chief, said.
"Unlike Gambhir and Marlena, I am closely associated with the people from East Delhi for the last 35 years. I know the people and their problems," he said. Taking a dig at Marlena and Gambhir over their active presence on Twitter, Lovely said, "My fight is against people who are only active on Twitter.
I have a direct connect with the grassroots." Marlena was closely associated with the execution of the Arvind Kejriwal dispensation's programmes to improve the education system in the Delhi government schools. Lovely also hit out at the BJP and the Aam Aadmi Party for fielding candidates not belonging to East Delhi.
"I want to ask whether AAP, which claims to be of a common man's party, does not consider any person from East Delhi as capable to contest elections from the area," he asked, adding these elections are not just about Arvinder Singh Lovely or the Congress, but about the "respect and prestige" of the people of trans-Yamuna.
Asked about the Congress' decision to field a three-time chief minister, Shiela Dikshit, at the age of 81 years to contest elections from North-East Delhi seat, he said she is known among people for the developments of Delhi. "People of Delhi are missing Sheila ji today because of what Arvind Kejriwal government is doing in Delhi.
People are comparing their (AAP government's) works with the 15 year of works of Sheila ji.
They (AAP) stand nowhere," he said. "Sheila Dikshit is a big name, and people are missing her that's why the Congress party gave her an opportunity (to contest elections)," he said. About the AAP government's performance, he said that no new hospitals and schools were opened in Delhi since the Aam Aadmi Party came to power.
"The roads built by the then Sheila Dikshit government are currently in a poor state. Metro projects are being delayed. For this, both the BJP and AAP are responsible," he said. Asked about his vision if he wins the elections, Lovely said, "Delhi is one of the greenest capitals, and we all are proud of it, but it has now become one of the polluted cities in the world. "We will work towards it...we will make a good network of roads so that there is decline in vehicular pollution.
The projects which were cleared by the then Congress government did not take off yet." On what he expects from his party in the May 12 Lok Sabha elections, he said the Congress will be in the first position. "In the 2017 municipal elections, the AAP came a distant third in East Delhi while the Congress came second. In the Lok Sabha elections, the Congress will be in the first position," he also said.
The former Delhi minister also hit out at BJP-led central government and the Arvind Kejriwal dispensation for "not doing anything" to stop the sealing drive in the city. "There was sealing due to which people faced a lot of difficulties, but both the BJP government at the Centre and the AAP dispensation did not do anything," he said. Asked whether he regretted his decision to join the BJP in the 2017 in the run up to the MCD elections, Lovely said, "Absolutely.
Absolutely it was a decision that was angrily taken due to my personal reason." "When I came back to the Congress (in February 2018), I had said that I was ideologically a misfit (in the BJP)...my political ideology did not match with them (BJP) and that's why I corrected immediately," he said.
In Delhi, there are over 1.43 crore voters, and of these, 64 lakh are female voters, while 72 lakh are male voters. Besides, there are 669 voters belonging to the third gender. There are 164 candidates who are fighting the Lok Sabha election in Delhi, and of these, only 18 women candidates are in the fray.