Ground Reports

[Interview] 'Studied In Oxford, Par Dil, Dimaag, Ruh Aur Sanskaar Se Bharatiya Hoon' — Says Bansuri Swaraj

Sharan Setty

May 20, 2024, 08:15 PM | Updated 08:15 PM IST

Bansuri Swaraj is the BJP's candidate from the New Delhi Lok Sabha constituency.
Bansuri Swaraj is the BJP's candidate from the New Delhi Lok Sabha constituency.
  • "I am emotionally attached to Delhi and I am telling you, this is my city", says Bansuri Swaraj.
  • New Delhi Lok Sabha constituency, a prestigious parliamentary seat in the heart of Delhi was once represented by big names — Sucheta Kriapalani, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Rajesh Khanna, Lal Krishna Advani and more recently, Ajay Maken.

    From 2014 to 2024, it was represented by incumbent MP Meenakshi Lekhi. This time around, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has fielded Bansuri Swaraj, a lawyer and daughter of the late Sushma Swaraj, one of BJP's tallest leaders who went on to become the first woman Chief Minister of Delhi and then held various portfolios in the Vajpayee and Modi cabinets.

    Bansuri has been spending time in her constituency, wooing voters with shayari and slogans in support of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP.

    For 15 years, Bansuri has been working as a lawyer. She has an undergraduate degree in English Literature from the University of Warwick and then became a Barrister at Law at the BPP Law School in London. She completed her Master of Studies from St. Catherine's College, University of Oxford, and has been working with the BJP Delhi's legal cell since a year or so.

    She was also appointed as the Additional Advocate General for Haryana.

    New Delhi PC includes assembly segments such as Malviya Nagar, New Delhi, Delhi Cantt and Greater Kailash — with all the ten being represented by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLAs. This includes Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, and some more senior leaders of the party including Somnath Bharti, Saurabh Bhardwaj and Durgesh Pathak.

    Despite this, Bansuri seems sure of her victory, thanks to PM Modi's popularity and the schemes implemented by the BJP government.

    As the AAP and Kejriwal are in the middle of a political slugfest with the alleged assault on Rajya Sabha MP Swati Maliwal by one of Kejriwal's aides, Bansuri is leaving no stone unturned to utilise this to the best of her opportunity.

    Swarajya's Associate Editor Sharan Setty briefly joined her campaign in New Delhi's Green Park and had a conversation about her election campaign. She is facing AAP's Somnath Bharti in this election.

    Bansuri addressing the nukkad sabha at Khanna Market.
    Bansuri addressing the nukkad sabha at Khanna Market.
    Speaking to the media.
    Speaking to the media.
    Voters gathered in a community hall in Green Park.
    Voters gathered in a community hall in Green Park.
    Bansuri, seated on the dias.
    Bansuri, seated on the dias.
    Being garlanded by local residents.
    Being garlanded by local residents.
    Addressing the gathering at Green Park.
    Addressing the gathering at Green Park.
    With Swarajya's Sharan Setty.
    With Swarajya's Sharan Setty.

    'Naara Nahi, Sankalp Hai'

    In New Delhi's residential colonies, apartments and market places, Bansuri addresses 'nukkad sabhas' where she interacts with the voters. Beginning at eight in the morning, she usually partakes in padyatras and concludes them within a couple of hours — which is when the temperatures begin to boil.

    By four in the evening, her canvassing resumes, once the sun is relatively kinder. She begins her speech after karyakartas raise 'Jai Shri Ram', 'Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akaal' slogans in unison. On 17 May, Friday, Bansuri resumed her campaign in New Delhi's Khanna Market where about a couple of hundred people were waiting to listen to her.

    "Ab ki baar, 400 paar naara nahi, ek sankalp hain. Aur hum sankalp se siddhi prapt karenge", she says. Bansuri is accompanied by local BJP leaders and workers as a convoy of a dozen cars moves around in a well-coordinated manner, without causing much trouble to the traffic. She likes to be on time, and often signals her team when it is getting late to leave for the next destination.

    "You must have heard about the story of Sita Haran from your elders all the time. But unlike that, I have something different to say everywhere I go. I request you, if you have seen me speak earlier, do forgive me if I do repeat myself sometimes", she says to the gathered crowd.

    "I am a lawyer by profession. I know how much shopkeepers are going through. But not for long. Your sister is here to offer support. I am a lawyer by profession, and in my personal capacity, we will do everything to help resolve your problems", she adds.

    After attending to selfie requests and media interviews, she proceeds to the next pitstop — Green Park's Arya Samaj Mandir. The local RWA presidents, people living the colonies and pockets of Green Park are gathered. One after the other, people take turns to garland Bansuri and in return, receive a 'kamal' (lotus).

    'Dilli Ki Kudi Hoon'

    An eclectic mix of demographics — people from all age groups, faith and political preferences are present in these sabhas. She knows the areas very well, since she grew up in New Delhi around the time when her mother was the chief minister and then a union minister.

    "I am truly blessed to be the daughter of my parents. Like your children, I too, have gone to schools in this neighbourhood. I am a 'Dilli ki kudi'. Yes, I did study in Oxford, then became a barrister and started practicing law, but I can assure you, dil, dimaag, ruh aur sanskaar se Bharatiya hoon", she says, as the audience applauds.

    Making sure to add a few lines in Punjabi, she speaks about the disempowerment of the Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs) after AAP came into power in Delhi. She said that she understands what they are going through, and that they are capable of solving problems of their own — they just need resources to address them.

    "I have not come to seek blessings with an empty hand. I want to promise you: soon as I am elected an MP from this constituency, I will commit 25 per cent of my MPLAD (local area development) funds to be used per the discretion of the RWAs", she says. Among the problems she mentions, drainage issue remains the biggest one.

    Then, she lists the achievements of the Modi government from abrogation of Article 370 to construction of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya and much more — how India is becoming a manufacturing hub for semiconductors, push for renewable energy, construction of world-class expressways, leveraging technology for better governance to name a few.

    "It is the 76th day of campaign since I was announced as the candidate by the party. All the ten assemblies are represented by AAP legislators, tell me, have they been doing enough? A Rajya Sabha MP (Swati Maliwal) herself is not safe under this administration's rule, so how do we expect others to be safe?", she says, as the crowd says "shame".

    "One party speaks about wealth creation, while the other speaks about wealth redistribution. Do you want your hard earned money and properties taken away? Gatbandhan nibhate nibhate, rashtra aur raj dharam ki bali hui hai", she adds, criticising the almost amoral stances adopted by the opposition parties.

    "I can assure you one thing — I will never allow the pagdi to be insulted. Show your anger against the opposition in a week's time when you vote on the 25th (of May). This is an election for 'sanatan ke sipahis'", she says, as the Punjabis present in the hall cheer for her.

    Bansuri sat down for a brief interview with Swarajya. Here are edited excerpts from the conversation.

    Sharan: Bansuri, thank you so much for speaking with us.

    How's it going in Delhi?

    Bansuri: It's been going incredibly well. I'm incredibly grateful to the people of Delhi for the kind of love, affection and blessings they are showering me with. It's been 76 days of relentless campaign. And I know that all this affection and all these blessings that are being showered on me stem from the people of Delhi's... I would say, unwavering love, commitment and faith in the leadership of Narendra Modi ji.

    His very beneficial schemes that have permeated right down to the ground level, as well as his vision of a Viksit Bharat, which resonates with the people of Delhi tremendously, is being translated into blessings for the party.

    Sharan: I heard your speeches in a couple of nukkad sabhas. It looks like you were always prepared for this, and I'm sure your parents have also had a great influence on this. So, when was the first time you that you actually thought about getting into politics?

    Bansuri: Thank you for the compliment, but I'll be very honest. It happened all of a sudden. I was serving the party for over a decade. As a lawyer and sort of assisting the party in cases in court. Suddenly I got a phone call where I was asked to join as a co-convener in the legal cell in Delhi BJP.

    After some time I was asked to serve as the Secretary of the Delhi BJP. And suddenly on 2nd of March, I found out from television, just like the rest of us, that the party has fastened a new responsibility on you, which is of being the candidate from New Delhi Lok Sabha.

    Sharan: Tell us a little bit about your constituency, because it has some important places, but also you face, a little bit of a challenge because, many legislators belong to the Aam Aadmi Party.

    Bansuri: So it's a beautiful eclectic mix of linguistic communities, of religious communities, in terms of economic strata. I would say that if Delhi is the heart of Bharat, then New Delhi's parliamentary constituency is the heartbeat of that heart. In terms of challenges, certainly there's...I wouldn't say it's a challenge, but certainly an issue. There are two issues which are very crucial:

    The first one is that for about a decade now, all the MLAs are that of Aam Aadmi Party. Majority of the Parishads are of the Aam Aadmi Party. But it seems that not much work has been done on the ground. And therefore the people of Delhi are quite disillusioned by the Aam Aadmi Party. If I am given an opportunity to be elected and serve the people as a Member of Parliament, I will ensure that I address their concerns to the best of my ability.

    The second issue is that there are many beneficiaries of Modi administration schemes, like Ayushman Bharat, but the honourable Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal ji has disallowed their implementation in Delhi due to selfish politics.

    In Ayushman Bharat, the beneficiary is granted free health cover up to five lakh rupees annually, and now the honourable Prime Minister, in Modi 3.0, taken a pledge to expand the ambit of Ayushman Bharat to include transgender communities as well as all senior citizens above the age of 70 years.

    But Delhiites are deprived. So I will ensure if I am elected, that even if it means knocking at the court's door, that Delhiites do not remain deprived and such beneficial schemes like Ayushman Bharat are implemented in Delhi as well.

    Sharan: New Delhi is a seat where lots of big names have contested from. So it must be truly a privilege to be contesting from here. But the interesting thing is that I see that you're not just focused on telling what the achievements of the the Modi government, but you're also acknowledging the possible failure of the state government to implement certain things, such as cleaning the naalas (drains). It's technically not a concern for a Member of Parliament, but still you're doing that. Why is that?

    Bansuri: That is because I have a very honest commitment to actually serve the people. This is my city. I'm a hardcore Delhiite. I was born and raised here. When I go on the campaign trail, every nook and corner, I can actually tell them I have a memory of this.

    And this is also a seat that I tell you my family is associated with. I am emotionally attached to Delhi and I am telling you, this is my city. I will do everything in my power to ensure that Delhiites have dignity of life, have a better quality of life. And when you see the AAP MLAs actually not doing their job, then as a voter of Delhi, if I have been put in that privileged position of becoming an MP, I will do my job to raise these concerns.

    Sharan: Things have taken a serious turn in the case of the alleged assault against Rajya Sabha MP and former chief of the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) Swati Maliwal. If a parliamentarian is not safe in Delhi, how do we ensure the safety of common citizens?

    Bansuri: There are two separate issues that you've raised in this question. First, it is flabbergasting and shocking that the Honourable Chief Minister Shri Arvind Kejriwal continues to maintain a deafening silence with regards to the Swati Maliwal case. She was allegedly assaulted by his OSD at his own residence.

    If the Chief Minister cannot ensure the safety of his own Rajya Sabha member, and a woman karyakarta of his party, how will he ensure the safety of women in Delhi? Not only that, Mr. Kejriwal has not taken any action. In fact, he's traveling with the accused and it is shocking. It seems that he has he has zero commitment towards taking any action of any sort. It's almost as if he's encouraging the accused.

    Now, regarding the safety of women: I think we should have this conversation again in December, because come July 2024, the new laws are going to come in force. The earlier laws, the IPC, CrPC, and the Evidence Act, are basically a piece of legislation that were used by the British to rule us, and therefore, at the heart of it, is not justice.

    It is basically a set of laws which were made to cull any kind of rebellion, to basically ensure that we are subdued. And I think the first time since Independence, Bharat is going to get laws which has been made keeping Bharatiyas in mind, and which stems from Bharatiya ethos. So, that is going to have tremendous detriments value, because our draft is very, in a way which is very clear, as well as a very strict in nature.

    It will really help ensure the safety of Indians, going forward.

    Sharan: Many people are saying that they see traces of your mother in you when you are campaigning. Sushma ji also contested from Karnataka during the 1999 LS polls, and she won the heart of the people of Ballari. While you are campaigning, are there any pearls of wisdom that you remember from your mother?

    Bansuri: The biggest life lesson that my mother gave me was to be fearless. Give your best and leave everything else to god. The only thing that is in your control is your karma.

    Sharan: Very good luck to you.

    Sharan Setty (Sharan K A) is an Associate Editor at Swarajya. He tweets at @sharansetty2.

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