Isudan Gadhvi, 40, was the anchor of a popular news show ‘Mahamanthan’ on VTV Gujarati.
The Aam Aadmi Party’s presumptive chief minister In Gujarat, former news TV anchor Isudan Gadhvi, today promised action against “top people, and not just some security guards” for the bridge collapse in Morbi on October 30 that killed 135 people.
“I went to the hospital there and saw the body of a 12-year-old girl. I was shaken. There were eight bodies of members of one family,” he told NDTV just after he was declared as the party’s face for the December elections after an internal survey.
Asked if he meant the top management of the contractor, Oreva Group, and Morbi municipal officials, the 40-year-old said, “More than that. We will check call recording of leaders of the BJP and all other parties.”
“Police have so far arrested just security guards and other such staff. There is no action against the big shots who must have made calls and got out of it,” said the investigative journalist who joined the AAP last year.
He also promised stricter action in the case of fire at a coaching institute in Surat two years ago and the death of over 70 people after drinking hooch in what is otherwise a dry state.
“No minister resigned, no one senior went to jail in those cases too,” he said. “The spirits of all those people who died remain in limbo. We will form the government on December 15 and immediately set up an inquiry commission under a retired judge (for the Morbi tragedy), and send the big shots to jail… Only then will the victims’ spirits be at rest.”
He claimed the BJP isn’t popular in Gujarat, which is otherwise considered its stronghold: “There was just no alternative, other than some who were bought out.”
The AAP is fielding candidates for all 182 constituencies this time, confident of a fate different from what happened in 2017, when it contested around 30 seats but made no impact.
Mr Gadhvi said the Congress, which ruled for 32 years and is the main opposition, and the BJP, in power for 27 years now, “have been playing a friendly match”.
“Lakhs of people have taken our Guarantee Cards, in which Arvind Kejriwal ji has listed the promises, such as free power and better schools,” he claimed, seeking to sell what the AAP calls “the Delhi model”.
He even claimed that in Punjab — the AAP won there by a landslide early this year — “there is no corruption at all now”.
Isudan Gadhvi with AAP boss Arvind Kejriwal and Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann after being announced as the chief ministerial candidate in Ahmedabad.
On the top three things that he’d do if he gets the top post, Mr Gadhvi said, “We will announce a debt waiver for farmers. I am the son of a farmer and I know agriculture close up. We will guarantee fair prices, uninterrupted power supply for 12 hours, and irrigation facilities.”
As a second step, he promised something that the AAP has done in Delhi and Punjab too: “We will announce an anti-corruption helpline.”
He also gave a timeline for the third promise: “From March 1, everyone will get free power, be it BJP local leaders or Congress workers.” The party has promised free power up to 300 units a month.
Party boss and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, accompanied by Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann, declared Mr Gadhvi’s name after saying that he got 73 per cent votes in an internal poll.
Mr Kejriwal has spent several days in Gujarat over the past few months, speaking of “development” and making appeals to the BJP’s core Hindutva voter with demands such as Hindu gods’ images on currency notes.
The Congress, which increased its vote share in 2017, has been running a lowkey campaign — it calls that a strategy. It refuses to see the election as a three-way contest, dismissing AAP as “mere talk”.
The BJP sees the AAP as a non-starter here.