Maharashtra irrigation scam whistleblower Vijay Pandhare retired after 33 years of government service on Saturday and joined the Aam Aadmi Party the following day. In an interview to Dhaval Kulkarni, the former chief engineer of the Maharashtra Engineering Training Academy, spoke about his willingness to contest the Lok Sabha polls from Nashik. Edited excerpts:
dna: Why did you decide to join politics?
Vijay Pandhare: Arvind Kejriwal is waging a war against corruption. It is necessary that all good people come together to help him.
dna: But the middle class feels politics is a murky area, where even good-intentioned people would be compelled to make compromises.
Pandhare: The situation is changing. These concepts will be proved wrong after the Delhi state assembly polls. The AAP claims it will form the government, but even if it emerges as the king-maker, this will be substantial.
dna: You blew the whistle on the irrigation scam. Do you believe the special investigation team headed by Madhavrao Chitale will take the probe to its logical end?
Pandhare: In the context of the SIT’s terms of reference, it may only pin down the officials of the department. (The big fish) may go scot free. There is no chance (of guilty ministers) being nailed down. There is little likelihood that the masterminds will be indicted.
dna: Have the principal opposition parties been aggressive in pinning down the government? Some say the opposition is merely an extension of the ruling party.
Pandhare: I have seen how the ruling party and the opposition work. They are the same. These people (in the opposition) are not free of corruption.
dna: You have spoken about contesting the Lok Sabha polls from Nashik ...
Pandhare: If the party asks me to contest the elections, I will. It makes no difference to me from where I will contest.
dna: There has been concern that middle-class people, who organise candlelight marches and participate in civil society movements go missing on election day. Also, honest candidates have been defeated in the past.
Pandhare: We will have to take due care and set up booth level committees so that maximum people cast their vote. With the AAP emerging as a third force, the estimated 20% of people who do not come out to vote will exercise their franchise. These people have stayed away because they do not like either the Congress or the BJP. When a third alternative is presented, the voting percentage will rise.
dna: What is your assessment of the so-called Narendra Modi wave?
Pandhare: To speak about a monstrous form of development is not an indication of righteousness. The conscience of the people needs to be awakened. People must be convinced that real satisfaction lies within them and is not related to money. As long as people do not discard selfishness they will not be happy.