New Delhi: A popular face having a huge mass appeal, Manoj Tiwari is spearheading the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) poll campaign for the upcoming Delhi Assembly elections.
The 49-year-old leader joined politics in 2009 at the behest of then Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh.
Contesting from Uttar Pradesh’s Gorakhpur constituency against BJP supremo Yogi Adityanath, who won the seat for five consecutive terms since 1998, Tiwari lost and learnt the nuances of the trade the hard way.
He joined BJP before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, winning from North-East Delhi constituency. Appointed the party’s Delhi chief in 2016, he registered a thumping victory in the 2019 LS elections defeating Congress heavyweight Sheila Dikshit by a huge margin.
Unlike in the 2015 Assembly polls when BJP showcased, now Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry, Kiran Bedi as the party’s chief ministerial candidate, it has not declared the name of the chief minister this time. Irrespectively, in case of a win, the Bhojpuri actor, singer and songwriter, Tiwari is seen as an undisputed leader to rule Delhi.
He talks to Gulf News in an exclusive interview:
GULF NEWS: The Delhi Assembly election has become all the more interesting as the Congress is on an upswing, whereas BJP has, of late, lost five key states. How do you rate your party’s chances?
MANOJ TIWARI: Agreed, the Congress won in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. But Maharashtra cannot be considered an achievement, as Congress played a game by breaking our alliance partner in the state. In Jharkhand, it is even smaller than a regional party and we are still ahead of it. Even as we are scrutinising the scenario where we flunked, BJP stands a good chance of coming to power in Delhi after 21 years. Delhi has suffered all these years and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has done nothing except making false promises to the citizens.
The opinion polls in the media favour AAP to retain power under Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. Could we see a three-way contest with the Congress as the game-changer?
Delhi is in shambles despite being the Capital of the country. In our internal survey, we found our fortunes are bright and are confident of bagging over 48 seats. Compared to AAP, Congress is in a better position today. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections AAP stood third, which meant people are not happy with Kejriwal, as the quality of life of people in his tenure has only deteriorated.
But AAP says it has struck a chord with the masses by fulfilling their needs of everyday life that include education, health care, water and electricity?
Kejriwal and his team are lying on all these issues. These are not their achievements but failures. Water is contaminated, the air is polluted, River Yamuna remains dirty and government schools are in miserable conditions. On the medical front, AAP has denied people of Delhi the Ayushman Bharat (medical insurance scheme) offered by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government. A woman narrated her tale to me how she had to sell her jhuggi (shanty) to fund her medical treatment.
So, what doles is BJP offering to the voters, to entice them?
Voted to power, our prime concern would be the security of its citizens, especially women. Other priorities include providing clean drinking water to all, improving the education system by constructing new schools and colleges and expanding the public transportation system by introducing 5,000 electric buses. Presently, over 20 million population of Delhi has barely 3,000 buses to commute.
You talk of advancement, but senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor said, ‘BJPs priority is not development, but to create a Hindu Rashtra’?
Leaders like him are known for misleading people. If the country’s progress was not our agenda, how come today over 28 kms of road construction work is carried out daily, compared to just 6 kms a day during the Congress regime. The list of our development works is very long. For now, I would mention that until now over 35 million children from the Muslim community have been beneficiaries of government scholarships and we intend to soon take it to 50 million. For the first time in nation’s history, BJP has trained madrasa teachers with the aim to educate children from the minority community. This will ensure they join the mainstream and prevent situations like Shaheen Bagh. Young minds are being radicalised to create disharmony across the country.
Of the 14.6 million Delhi voters, 33.5 per cent are from Purvanchal (Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh). Will your charisma as the Bhojpuri star work?
I am humbled by the fact that the Purvanchali community spread over 35 Assembly seats shower their love on me. They are with the BJP. For the migrant population, which largely resides in the city’s unauthorised colonies, BJP has provided ownership rights. We are also working towards providing them affordable housing.
This time, neither the BJP nor the Congress has a chief minister face. Will it be a sticking point where AAP stands to score?
No way! These elections are being fought under my leadership as Delhi BJP President. Contesting on 70 seats, it is my responsibility to take care of not just one constituency, but all boroughs.
You are a blue-eyed boy of both Modi and home minister Amit Shah. How did you manage this?
Simplicity and positivity always attracts. I work diligently and my hard work showed when we defeated AAP even in municipal elections.
He hails from Atarwalia village in Kaimur district, Bihar.
Graduated from Banaras Hindu University, Uttar Pradesh.
He was a contestant in the reality TV show Bigg Boss Season 4 — 2010.
Inducted into BJP to attract over 4 million migrants settled in the Capital from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, he routinely organises or participates in programmes celebrating Poorvanchali culture.