Gopal Italia, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)’s 33-year-old state convenor, is a known Patidar face in the state and also the star campaigner for the Arvind Kejriwal-led outfit. While he may have lost out to Isudan Gadhvi in the race to become AAP’s chief ministerial face for the December elections in the state, Italia is all set to take his party to victory with a focus on people’s issues.
In Katargam constituency, which goes to polls in the first phase on December 1, CNN-News18 caught up with Italia to decode AAP’s strategy and his plans for personal growth. Edited excerpts:
How are you looking at the maiden contest? How strong, do you think, are your opponents from the Congress and the BJP?
This election is being fought by the people themselves. It is people who are standing behind us and the candidate who has the support of the people is the strongest. In this election, it is the AAP, the people of Gujarat who are strong and all our contestants.
What do you have to say about Vinod Moradia, a minister in the BJP government, and Kalpesh Variya, the Congress candidate?
I don’t have anything to say about anyone else. I will speak only about myself and the people of the state. I am an educated youth leader, I represent an educated and young party and have risen through the ranks after several struggles. People are supporting Arvind Kejriwal and the issues that have been raised by AAP. I am confident that people will take a correct decision.
You are also the star campaigner for your party. Do you have time to campaign for your elections and that of others also?
I am campaigning — for the party, the people, for all.
How many candidates and constituencies have you campaigned for and in so far?
I have held road shows, ‘padyatras’, door-to-door campaigns in many assemblies and will continue doing that.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is very popular, especially in his home state. Do you think the AAP’s campaign can cut through his popularity?
See, we are not against anybody. There are those who are popular, those who are not popular — each one has his own identity. That is alright. We are here to talk about the issues of the people and, if given an opportunity, to work for the people.
AAP built good schools in Delhi and has started doing the same in Punjab. It built ‘Mohalla Clinics’ in Delhi, and then in Punjab. We are here to work for the people. ‘Jo popular hai, nahi hai, jo acche hain, jo bure hain, sabko apna apna mubarak. Hum janta ke log hain, janta ke liye kaam karne ke liye avenge’ [Those who are popular, those who aren’t, those who are good and those who are bad — to each his own. We are of the public and will come to work for them].
We are campaigning and I have faith that people will reward us with their vote.
There are so many cases against you — here in Gujarat, another in NCW. How do you look at these?
Yes, there are many cases against me but not one of them is related to corruption. That is a matter of pride for me. The cases against me are those which have been filed during the course of my fight for the people and because of the ‘tanaashahi’ of the BJP. I am proud that I fought for the people and FIRs were filed against me.
Many years have passed since you posted videos using abusive language. You have done quite a few things after that. In retrospect, do you regret those videos?
You yourself say it is in the past. Why are you bringing it up again?
Because I want to understand whether you have any regrets for the same.
No one wants to understand. It is only you and the BJP who want to understand these kind of **** things. People don’t have money to pay the fees of their children. Why are we talking of this old nonsense during election times? People will not be fooled. ‘Bahut ho gayi ye saari cheezein, janta ki party hai, janta ki muddon ki baat karti hai. Dus saal pehle meine kya bola tha, kissi gareeb aadmi ko usse kya lena dena hai?’ [We are a party of the people and talk of their issues. What does a poor man have to do with what I said 10 years ago?] And when I have corrected my ten-year-old thinking, why should anyone have a problem with that?
So you agree that you have corrected your thinking?
If you look at our honourable prime minister, don’t you remember the words he used against Sonia Gandhi? I am only trying to say that these are not the issues of the people. These are the issues of either the media or the BJP.
People want to know who will provide them with good treatment. More than 200 people lost their lives in Morbi, people want to know who the murderer is. More than 100 people lost their lives in lattha kand (liquor tragedy), people want to know what punishment has been meted out to the murderers. People have nothing to do with what I had said 10 years ago. People want to know why papers are leaked repeatedly, putting at stake the futures of lakhs of youth. People want to know about the BJP leader to whom those leaking papers are dear. The AAP is here with a solution to these problems. When someone does not have issues, or solutions, they do these things.
But you agree that there has been a change in your thinking also?
See, there has been a change (parivartan) in the thinking of the people. Those who voted for the BJP year after year are standing with the ‘jhadoo’ [broom] today. This is exactly what has caused fear and panic in the BJP and they are resorting to all kinds of tricks. Let them continue. People are watching. People are with AAP and will ensure our victory.
How many seats will the AAP get?
As many as needed for a majority government.
What about the BJP and Congress?
They can tell you about their performance.
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