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The soft-spoken Yogendra Yadav, strategist and ideologue for AAP, tells Neha Lalchandanithat the party, going by present calculations, will win over 40 seats in the Delhi assembly elections. He feels AAP can carry out a positive campaign because Bedi and BJP are scoring self-goals. Yadav insists that the party lokpal filter is enough to keep out criminals. 

How do you see the political situation shaping up in Delhi? 

Of those who voted for Aam Aadmi Party in the Lok Sabha elections, when we were at rock bottom, almost nobody is leaving us. Of those who voted for Congress, I'm expecting a third to move away because Congress is not in the race. And a substantial part of that will come to AAP. BJP can afford to lose a tenth of its Lok Sabha voters which is about 4.6% of the total votes. AAP will also gain slightly and then we will be even. If BJP loses more than a tenth, it will be in very serious trouble. It is now a question of checking out whether that is right. 

Is this the situation after the entry of Kiran Bedi as BJP's CM candidate? 

Right now, we are in a position of comfortable majority which is 40 plus seats. If this trend continues, I won't be surprised if it goes up to 50 plus. My analysis is based on internal surveys, reports of BJP's internal surveys, surveys done by agencies on behalf of media houses and political feedback. What is evident is that Arvind Kejriwal is the number one preference for CM. Every survey which has done more than one take has said in the latest take that AAP is doing better since the last survey. This trend has continued post Bedi. This might not necessarily be because of her but despite her. 

What does AAP feel about BJP's decision to field Bedi as its CM candidate? 

We feel the Bedi card has fizzled out. Initially it looked like a positive move. Naturally, there was some concern. She is a woman leader, came with the credibility of being associated with the Anna movement and had higher popularity ratings than Dr Harsh Vardhan. However, BJP massively underestimated the negativity she would generate within the party. It also severely underestimated the challenges that she would face in making a transition to political life. She would be interrogated and face tough questions. 

A CM candidate is expected to understand the difference between a resettlement colony, JJ cluster and unauthorized colony. A politician is expected to be a team player, be inclusive. Not giving a CM's name was a smart choice. While we made it impossible for them to do so, they did not realize that by naming Bedi, they have made the Modi card ineffective. After BJP put out an advertisement on Friday, I said that all we need is one ad like this and an interview by Bedi each day and we will not have to do half the campaign where we tell people about BJP. The time saved could be spent in talking about AAP's positive agenda. 

How would you read the kind of effort and resources that BJP is putting into Delhi for this election? 

There are obvious signs of disarray in BJP. The finance minister of the country has been called back to the frontline to manage a Delhi state election. Why has BJP staked so much in the Delhi election? I think it has become a prestige issue because losing Delhi will break the momentum for BJP which is unacceptable. It will also break the myth of invincibility that the party has built around itself. I don't think they will mind losing to Congress but it is the idea that there is another viable model that is worrying them. 

Association of Democratic Reforms has released a report according to which 21 AAP candidates have criminal cases against them. This leads to the question that has AAP started aping other parties as recognition of real politics? 

This figure is not a very good basis to arrive at this conclusion. I have appealed to agencies like ADR to make a distinction between political cases and cases of criminality. Unlike any other party, we have an ombudsman who is not a member of the party but he is above the party's highest decision-making body. There were complaints against several candidates who did not allegedly match the integrity standards of the party and the lokpal gave a verdict against two of them. This year, there was a higher rate of induction from other parties compared to last time. This is what gives rise to the perception. We had done very poorly in outer areas of Delhi last time which gave rise to the recognition that the character of outer and rural Delhi is very different from the main areas. This is not to say that we will induct criminals into the party but one needs to tap into pre-existing networks. We tapped into that and put up a filter of lokpal to ensure we got candidates with integrity. 

A list of complaints against 12 candidates was forwarded to the lokpal of which only two were removed. I know that many complaints were forwarded to the lokpal. When he looked into it, he did not look merely at legal evidence but also at the reputation of the candidates. In one case where the candidate was removed, his reputation was the only ground for removal. There was no other case where someone could produce anything concrete against a candidate. 

But were all senior members happy with the choice of candidates? 

Is there any political party where there is no disagreement over candidate selection? A party where there is contestation about tickets, there are bound to be differences. In the case of AAP, the media gets to know about the internal conflicts. Congress and BJP have thicker walls around their decision-making structures. We do not have such walls and nor do we wish to make them. 

Do you think AAP has fallen prey to promises which have been unrealistic and difficult to keep? For instance, last year the party offered 20 kilolitres of free water each month but it was only later that one realized that a litre more than that would mean that all the water had to be paid for?

The difference lies between headlines and what we say. That we will give only so much free water and that the power tariff reduction was in a certain slab was said clearly in our manifesto. There was no attempt on our part to hide anything. People have been saying that we have promised the moon to people but can they point out even one item out of the 70 points listed in the party's manifesto which is impossible or irresponsible or incompatible with anything we have promised.

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