Atishi is one of Aam Aadmi Party’s most vocal leaders, previously an executive advisor to the Delhi’s Deputy CM, and currently AAP’s East Delhi Candidate for the Lok Sabha elections.
She started out in politics during the 2011 Anti-corruption movement after completing her education from Springdales School in Delhi, Delhi University, and Oxford University.
We met her in her local office in the midst of a full-fledged election campaign. In the midst of back to back meetings, we got a few questions answered.
Here is the video version, but if you want a TL;DR, scroll down a bit.
ED: What is Atishi when not a politician?
Atishi: Atishi is someone who would like to get 8-10 hours of sleep everyday and go for a morning walk everyday. But I don’t see that happening anytime soon.
ED: Hahaha, perks of being a politician, eh? But how is it entering politics as a common person?
Atishi: For that, I think you’ll have to ask somebody in the BJP or Congress. The only politics I’ve ever known is this aam aadmi politics.
ED: But does a common person have to sacrifice his/her ideals when they enter politics?
Atishi: I think you have to sacrifice your ideals if you’re a politician. Many times in politics, the choice isn’t between good and bad, its between bad and worse. One cannot just be an idealist, you have to confront the realities of society.
ED: Sounds like a hard bargain. Coming to your work in Delhi. What was your priority list when you started the reform of schools in Delhi?
Atishi: Our first priority was sorting out the infrastructure, making sure it was clean and maintained well.
Our second priority was ensuring proper methods of accountability. Teachers should be there on time and teach properly, principals of each school should perform their duties properly and so on.
Our third priority was actually improving the classroom practices.
ED: That’s quite a checklist! What according to you have been your party’s biggest successes during its tenure?
Atishi: I think one of them has to be the infrastructure that we’ve built up. Since coming to power in 2015, we’ve built up 8,000 classrooms and more are on the way. Another success vis-a-vis schools has to be maintenance and cleanliness since earlier they used to be filthy.
Besides that, ensuring teachers actually, come to school on time and teach properly. We’ve also invested a lot in teacher training as well.
ED: Interesting. On the other side, where has your party failed to achieve?
Atishi: I think we’ve done extremely well for a 4-year time span. But this isn’t to say that everything is hunky-dory.
There are still a lot of changes to be brought because reforming public-sector education is not a task for 4-5 years, it’s a task for at least a decade.
ED: How is the AAP working to improve Delhi’s pollution and women’s safety?
Atishi: See, the pollution issue is not just a Delhi issue, it’s a national issue. The reason is that the haze spreads all the way from Lahore to Varanasi. And therefore all states need to come together for this.
Of course, women’s safety is a priority. In fact, that’s why we’ve made full statehood for Delhi a prime election issue. If the police of a state come under the center, they will never be able to dedicate their fullest attention to issues like women’s safety.
Will the prime minister think about issues like terrorism in Kashmir and the insurgency in the north-east or about a few boys misbehaving with girls outside the Laxmi Nagar metro station.
ED: Coming now to the 2019 elections. You ran an anti-Congress campaign in 2015, why do we hear talks of an alliance between the two parties then?
Atishi: The BJP and the kind of politics that they have been practicing is a grave threat to this country. We can see that inter-caste and inter-religious conflict has been exacerbated.
Even inter-region conflict is bubbling up, you see this anti-purvanchali sentiment that is begging to arrive because of the BJP.
Another huge threat is the takeover of democratic institutions. In the view of these threats, I believe it’s necessary for all parties to collaborate and beat the BJP.
ED: The opposition says that you’ve turned Delhi into a slum. What do you have to say about that?
Atishi: I think that for the first time, Delhi’s slums which constitute and have always constituted 75-80 percent of its population are getting attention.
For years before, governments have let these slums and unauthorised colonies come up and then not provided them with basic amentities.
That has finally been done by AAP government. We need to realise that a majority of this city lives there and that the economy depends on them. They also live with their basic needs satisfied.
ED: The last question is a light one. What is the story behind your surname “Marlena”?
Atishi: Marlena is actually my second name, my full name is Atishi Marlena Singh. Marlena a Russian name and comes from a mix of Marx and Lenin. It was very popular during and after the Russian Revolution.
ED: Wow, that’s fascinating. Thank you Atishi, it was a pleasure!
Atishi: Thank you.
Reach the blogger at: @tanmaymay_
Image Source: Google Images
You would also like to read: