About governance, not politics, says Kejriwal on ‘G8’ platform of CMs

Breaking his silence over the proposed meeting of eight non-Congress, non-BJP chief ministers and a possible third front ahead of the 2024 general elections, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) national convener Arvind Kejriwal said that it is a platform that is being built. The Delhi CM said he has had many rounds of discussions with them. However, it is not a political but a governance platform, he added.

“This is a platform that is being built. Some chief ministers…roughly eight chief ministers and I have had many rounds of discussions with them. This is not a political platform, this is a governance platform,” he said. Kejriwal also said that he was violating the protocol between all the chief ministers as all eight had to hold a press conference jointly and make the announcement.

The seven non-Congress, non-BJP chief ministers who Kejriwal reached out to are Bihar’s Nitish Kumar, West Bengal’s Mamata Banerjee, Tamil Nadu’s MK Stalin, Kerala’s Pinarayi Vijayan, Telengana’s K Chandrashekar Rao, Jharkhand’s Hemant Soren, and of course Punjab’s Bhagwant Mann. Kejriwal further elaborated that all the eight chief ministers would visit a state and learn from each others’ success stories.

Referring to reports in the media that the meeting was a non-starter, he said, “We have had many rounds of discussion with them, their officers. The letter that was leaked was about finalising the dates. I felt that the date should be frozen. Everyone felt that the 18th and 19th is not suiting anyone as all have assembly sessions. So the suggestion was to keep it after mid-April. He added that it was a “work in progress”, and when finalised, he will inform everyone about who is coming.

The Delhi chief minister was speaking on the sidelines of the budget presentation in the assembly on Wednesday. He referred to his colleague and former deputy chief minister, Manish Sisodia, who is now in judicial custody as “Delhi’s permanent finance minister” who is being missed, and emphasised on the push for infrastructure in the budget. “With Rs 21,817 crore allocated for infrastructure development…there is a huge, huge, huge push for infra in the budget,” the chief minister said, to build a “clean, beautiful, modern Delhi”.

The CM flanked by finance minister Kailash Gahlot outlined a nine-point action plan that would turn the vision in the budget into reality, which included cleaning and beautifying 1,400 kilometres of roads, building 26 new flyovers, three unique double-decker flyovers, electrification of 57 new bus depots, three new modern bus ports, 1,400 electric buses, 100 new mohalla clinics near Metro stations, sewerage and water connection to every household, 20 new lakes, among others.

The chief minister also argued for higher allocation from the Centre for Delhi. “We give Rs 20,000 crore to the Centre. We don’t get anything. This is injustice. Delhi is like an engine. What will happen if you stop giving fuel to the engine? Delhi earns for the whole country…jo kamai karne walla hai, jo sone ke ande dene walli murgi hai, usko agar chara dena hi band kar doge, toh woh murgi anda kaise degi (if you stop feeding the hen that lays golden eggs, how will it keep doing this)?”

Also sounding the poll bugle for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, AAP has decided to go ahead on its own with a meeting at Jantar Mantar on March 23, Martyrs’ Day, which will be attended by the Delhi chief minister and his Punjab counterpart.

AAP minister and Delhi incharge Gopal Rai said, “Looking at the current situation in the country, tomorrow, at Jantar Mantar through a sabha, AAP will launch a nationwide campaign with the slogan ‘Modi hatao, desh bachao’. AAP MLAs, MPs, workers, our office-bearers will gather. This sabha will remember the sacrifices of Shaheed-e-Azam Bhagat Singh and Rajguru. Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal and Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann will address the gathering.”

When asked whether the conspicuous absence of any other opposition party is not a dampener, Rai remarked that as the campaign progresses, there will be communication with others.

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