The youngest candidate of all the Bangalore MP candidates, Rizwan Arshad, 34 years, is geared up for the big battle. After waiting for so long, Citizen Matters was able to catch him in an event scheduled in Press Club of Bangalore to launch his website, on April 4, 2014.
The launch of the website
It was not a big event. Rizwan who wore casual cotton-white shirt and pant, was accompanied by Infrastructure Minister Roshan Baig, his son and other party members.
Rizwan acknowledged the work of two youths, Sujay and Parikshit who designed the website http://rizwanarshad.in/. He said that this time, apart from the routine door-to-door campaigns and walks, he will also campaign online through his own website. This website is an open forum for all to track his steps and suggest him ideas to campaign.
He said if he gets elected as the MP, the website would serve as a platform for people to raise issues and suggest their ideas. However, at the time of publishing this, all that the website showed was a blank white page.
‘Political cases, not criminal cases’
After the launch, the stage was open for an interaction with the press. Media persons asked him about his next program of the day – travelling by bus. Would he travel in a crowded BMTC bus or would he travel in a special bus?
“Among the major political parties, I am the common man. I don’t have a big background. I am a political activist… I have travelled by bus, train, autos. There has been a time when I had to walk because autos were expensive,” answered Rizwan Arshad.
Next question was asked by Citizen Matters: You say you are a common man, but you have two cases registered against you, how do you defend it?
His answer: “Both the cases are political cases. One among them is Vidhan Sabha Gherao which I had planned against the garbage disposal problem that the BJP government couldn’t handle. So a case was registered on that. Another case was booked when I protested against the government, but none of them are criminal cases.”
Seizing the opportunity, we asked the second important question: Will you allow a massive SEZ project which violates the environmental laws to come up in your constituency?
“These are complex issues. It is not about allowing the project or scrapping the project. It should be taken up in overall interest of the city. One of the mandatory requirements of the city is, lung space. Bangalore definitely needs lung space. We cannot leave a concrete jungle for the future generation. This is my strong belief.”
He was at his diplomatic best when he explained further: “At the same time, you cannot neglect the development. So, without disturbing this entire corridor, SEZ has to come or some development has to come. There should be fine balance between development and ecology.”
Other presspersons wanted to know his knowledge of his constituency: What do the people of your constituency want? What are their priorities? What is lacking in the constituency?
Rizwan: Bangalore Central constituency has different demography. It involves core business district, an IT field, the biggest slum and a dumping ground, Mandur too. It is a constituency with different dynamics. Here the issue is imbalanced development. A few areas are well-developed, while some areas are underdeveloped, such that we can’t imagine it is still Bangalore.
Then the next question: Who do you blame for this imbalanced development?
Rizwan: I don’t want to blame anyone. Bangalore has grown leaps and bounds from last 15 years. It used to be peaceful pensioner’s paradise. From 1998 or 1999 to 2004 S M Krishnaji was in power there was a stable government with the visions for Bangalore that gave strong foundation to the city.
Problem started from 2004 to 2013 where we had political instability. We had coalition governments. When BJP came to power, even though they had majority, they couldn’t concentrate on governance because of their own internal issues. Five years of disturbed governance of BJP plus alignment of governments together couldn’t contribute anything good to Bangalore. And there was no futuristic development. We couldn’t come out with futuristic thinking. We missed the bus when we couldn’t implement the various schemes. Under the JNNURM scheme crores of rupees were pumped into Bangalore city. The issue was, all the 10 years we couldn’t have a vision for Bangalore. In this 10 years, we allowed Bangalore to grow in all directions without any check. That is what is causing the problem now.
The need of the hour is, we need to have vision for development to decongest it. We are not competing with cities only in India but across the world. It’s an international city which needs development at all levels. For that, we need to start thinking now.
Citizen Matters asked: How do you plan to bring a change in your constituency when the MP will have to actually sit in Delhi?
Rizwan: Certainly yes – an MP can’t be a councillor, corporator or a MLA. But he can be a connecting point of all these institutions working for the development of the city. I can coordinate between the state government, BBMP and civil society members who want to contribute. Definitely we need people’s involvement for the development of the city. Unfortunately, for the last 10 years, people’s involvement has been negligible. We are not using the expertise of the people. It cannot be only the bureaucrats who will develop the city. People should decide what they want. I would like to create a platform where government, the BBMP, BDA, civil society and all the experts together put in their brains to develop this city.”
The press meet came to an end. Rizwan however, gave us the much-awaited 10 minutes of his time for his interview. While travelling along with him for 10 minutes from press Club to Garuda mall, we were able to get the following interview.
Last 10 years of UPA was filled with scams. Why do you want people to go with Congress?
All the scams that the opposition is talking are propaganda against the UPA government. The 10 year tenure of The UPA government has been an historical tenure for this nation. Never in the history of the nation the files which were supposed to be closed and accessed only by the government, were opened to the common man. With just one application one can have access to the highest decision making of the government. One can understand the reasons for the decision made. It’s an history which has transformed the country all this scams, scandals whatever is coming out is due to this one act. But the credit is not being given to us (Congress). The opposition should be fair. Why didn’t they bring the RTI when they were in power? Or right to work? Today we have given minimum guaranteed work for people.
The implementation of RTI is still a major concern. Does it lack implementation?
No, how come all these scams are coming out? We have started, it can only become better. It can’t deteriorate from here. Secondly, because of lack of opportunities at the village level, people would give up their chance to work in major cities. Today with NREGA we have given them Right to Work. Because of reservation clause of 25 % in the Right to Education, ordinary poor family kids are going to most high-profiled schools in the neighbourhood. Right to Food is also a big issue.
You know how economic situation is across the world in many countries, how some economies perished. They have been declared as bankrupt. In such a difficult time our nation is still surviving on its own. We are talking about price rise; we are talking about so many other problems. We are a part of the world. We should understand all this. Just because of our country’s strong foundation we are still self-reliant.
There are schemes already, but when it comes to implementation there is lapse by the government. How will you address it?
Definitely not. We are trying to change the system. We know there is corruption, we know there are loopholes in the system, benefits are leaked and don’t reach the real beneficiary.
What was the necessity for the government to bring Direct Benefit Transfer scheme? It was a scheme where the benefits of the common man would reach directly to the beneficiary’s hand. To avoid middlemen, to avoid corruption and to avoid leakages.
Today through Aadhaar, we are able to send pensions directly to people. Earlier, to avail a pension of Rs.500, a bribe of Rs.50 was being paid to middlemen. Today the government is making a mechanism where pension, scholarship and subsidy are reached directly to the beneficiary without any scope for corruption. So we are trying for a systematic change.
Even for this, the government was criticised by the opposition because they don’t have a vision and they don’t want systematic change to happen. We have used technology to weed out corruption, just by appointing somebody to guard there and thinking that because of fear of a body which will catch few people they will stop corrupt practices. Corruption needs to be weeded out through a systematic change by using technology as far as possible. We need to streamline these things. We also passed the Jan Lok Pal bill, whistleblowers protection bill and so many other statutory bills.
But even the Lok Pal Bill which your government passed, is not the actual Lok Pal Bill that was proposed?
A very big debate should be conducted on the actual Lok Pal bill. The kind of Lok Pal Bill the activists were proposing would have created an imbalance in the system.
A democracy needs a balanced system. Why Pakistan is always getting into the hold of the military? Why there are military coups that take over an elected democratic government? Why India doesn’t have that? We have created a system which has distributed power in equal level. Example: Army, Air force and Navy, all are equal and work under the command of the president. In Pakistan, Army controls Navy and Air force. There is no system or no balance of power in Pakistan.
If you create a body which is so powerful, anybody would create an imbalance in the system. Our intention is we have promoted this democracy to this level. Democracy should be strengthened and there has to be balance of power.
Jan Lok Pal Bill passed by the Congress has this balance. The activist-proposed bill doesn’t have this balance, which would lead to chaos and anarchy.
How are you funding your campaign? Are you using party funds or personal funds?
I am yet to get my party support. I think they will tell me in one or two days. A few people have helped me out in this, which is all accounted. This will be definitely made public and submitted to Election Commission. Here the issue is, yes, money is needed to fund the campaign. The Election Commission has set a level. We are trying to limit ourselves to that level. It is difficult, I should admit it. But, I don’t have so many resources to carry this campaign as I am just a youth and don’t have a big financial backing.
No corporates are backing?
It’s not about corporates, whoever wants will help me with cheque. I have not yet given my complete attention to this as I have been busy meeting people. So I will come out with that soon.
Will you accept it if corporates extend help?
Definitely, but I would like to know who they are and what is their social commitment. I mean if it’s a pure business body without any social commitment then I would not like to accept it from them. I will certainly accept from the corporates who have social commitments and are concerned about the development of the city and aren’t looking for any future favours from the government.
There are allegations on you, of rigging the Youth Congress polls, by allegedly taking mining money. Is this true?
It is certainly false. When I won the first election, nobody believed that I could win. One of the reasons for them was that I didn’t have any political background. I came from minority community. Never in the history, we had a minority community person being the president of the Youth Congress, that too in the elections of such a large scale. But I won with a very big margin against the well-established political family. So there were rumours that he might have rigged the elections and won.
I would like to ask all those who talk about this, if an established political family cannot rig it, how can I do it? I mean, I can’t be more powerful than them. This election happens across the state where lakhs of youths vote. Being a very ordinary person, can I rig the elections across the state? It’s not logical.
If you didn’t, did any of your party members do it?
No. See. There is a big team which has worked with me. Established people have much bigger teams. It depends on how you appeal the youth and take them together. And this is exactly what I have done. As a result I won with a much bigger margin in the second term than the earlier term. So, now nobody talks. It shows that I was successful in gaining the confidence of the youth, which was very necessary and they helped me out.
What is your vision for your assembly constituency?
I would focus on sustainable development. Bangalore city is being dealt in a temporary manner. Today we need a road, we get a road, today we need footpath, and we get a footpath. A city like Bangalore can’t function like this every day. Development is needed but it should happen systematically. Development should be relevant even after 25 years of existence. But here, after five years the development is irrelevant. It is not helping the city. So I would personally like to concentrate on sustainable development, a long term development plan involving people, citizens, civil society the governments and all the stakeholders who are the part of the city. This would be my vision.
What’s your view on the incumbent MP PC Mohan?
I am a person who doesn’t believe in personal attacks. I have no issues with him personally, but I am travelling across my constituency and meeting the voters they ask me who this guy is! Where has he been? What has he done? That shows what he has done. I don’t want to comment anything further.
BJP lost a remarkable opportunity to develop this city. They had their own state government for five years. They had their three MPs; they also have BBMP under their control. All the three stakeholders who were supposed to develop the city were with one party. In spite of that, they didn’t have any concern to develop the city. They were busy infighting, furthering their businesses, real estate and engaging in corruption. You know the situation was so bad that we were ashamed to walk on the road. They had brought the city to that level. They failed to carry out their duties. The city doesn’t deserve to be dealt like this.
Do you think Jaffer Sharief not getting a ticket here will have any role on your victory?
It is not a concern; I am a candidate of Congress party. Whoever would be the candidate I am ready to fight so I will fight whoever stands against me. Whether AAP, JDs or BJP With due respect to all I am fighting.
Will you be there for long haul even if you lose this election?
Of course, Bangalore is my first love, I will be with Bangalore till I die and beyond that!