Ready for Anything, Dr Ajoy Kumar, on his journey, Medico, Cop, to a Politician, from Real to Celluloid

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L to R Dr. Ajoy Kumar with Arvind Kejriwal

By Vijaylakshmi Nadar, Copy Edited By Adam Rizvi, TIO.From passing out as a doctor from Jawaharlal Institute of Post Graduate Medical Education and Research (JIPMER), one of the premium medical colleges in Puducherry, India, to a desire to clear the Indian Foreign Services (IFS) exams which however landed him in a exciting but risky career in the Indian Police Force (IPS), to a plum corporate career in Tata Steel in Jamshedpur, to a leap of faith in politics which led him to Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), the spokesperson of congress and finally a leap into the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), as its national spokesperson, Dr. Ajoy Kumar, has had a full and a commendable life.

During his stint as a police officer in Jharkhand, the crime rate dropped by 900-1000%, simply by adopting “simple policing techniques”, which also resulted in a Bollywood movie ‘Gangajal’ being made on his life. And before one assumes, that Bollywood being Bollywood, the movie would be an exaggeration, he is quick to point out that it did not show even 1% of what happens in real life.

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“If real crime were to be replicated on film then it will have to be for a platform like Netflix. My experience would put series like Sacred Games in the shade”, says Dr. Ajoy, who is in talks with filmmakers for another film on his life, with his character to be portrayed by actor Randeep Hooda.

In a free-wheeling chat with Vijaylakshmi Nadar of The India Observer, TIO. Dr. Ajoy reveals his plans for what he says is the last quarter of his life.

VN:  Why did you choose to join AAP and why now?

AK: I have been in touch with several AAP leaders, even before it became AAP, during India Against Corruption movement, in which I participated too. I was to join AAP in 2013 itself, however, a lack of communication, resulted in me joining Congress instead.

There is a definite need for an alternative today. Congress, my old party is simply not recognizing it. AAP fills in that alternate political narrative, based on the issues they are fighting on, which is fundamental in nature, not realized or appreciated by us. The party has a lot of professionals, young boys, and girls, old people, who do not possess the traditional political mindset, background, or in intent. That is one stool they stand on. The other stool Is their governance model, which is what they want to be elected on.  Is AAP perfectly balanced on the stool? No, because the political process is a journey.

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I like the fact that they leverage technology a lot. They understand they are a political party, with a better governance model than other political parties, not just a Non- Governmental Organization (NGO).

A lot of political mishaps, if we call it that, happened in the party too because the ones who got power were young professionals, and inexperienced from a political perspective. The pressure they were under from the center was immense too. Critics may point fingers, but it needs to be understood that it takes years in power to reach a level of political maturity.

VN:You have led a dynamic life, with years of varied and exceptional experiences. How do you perceive the future of the party and what will your role in the party be?

AK At the moment, it is all hands on deck for Delhi elections. My intention is to work scientifically, get all the communication in place, working with the backend team, help choose the right candidates, and contribute to MLA outreach. On the other side is a party with a lot of resources, willing to do a lot of negative propaganda, therefore a formidable challenge.

In states like Karnataka, Jharkhand alternatives can happen, once Delhi is won back. Each state is a five- year project and entails a lot of hard work. Even a state like Goa would be a three-year project to capture it. Technology and effective communication is a part of elections, but connecting with the voters through padyatras, as Jegan Reddy did in Andhra Pradesh, is a must. We are from the same school and whether we agree if he is the right person for the post or no, there is no replacement for his model of being on the ground and hard work.

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In the journey, we should ensure that we do not lose our core, our inclusiveness, our transparency, honesty, but we also keep need to keep our ears to the ground and watch which way the wind is blowing and which issues which may swing against AAP.

So, to the question of whether we can, we can come to power in states where you have no presence, we certainly can. If Emmanuel Macron could become the French president in seven months, then we can do it too. I believe that in 2024 we will form the government.

There is a Chinese saying that “Great things have no fear of time”. Identify at least 150 outstanding people to join the party, to infuse fresh blood in it.

VN: What top changes in policing would you suggest in Delhi?

AK: We have priorities to make Delhi the safest in the world for women, safer than Copenhagen, Tokyo. That itself would be a major achievement. New York of ’70s and ’80s was crime-infested, but now is one of the safest cities, thanks to police officers like William Bradstone. For Delhi, you do not have to reinvent the wheel, successful policing practices have already been laid out in cities like London.

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One of the basic changes to be made is registering the First Information Report (FIR), which is not being done because crime figures will jump up initially and no politician would be ready to accept that. Not registering an FIR leads to a lack of investigations, crimes being suppressed, criminals going scot-free and then graduating to bigger crimes, a domino effect.

There should be quick trials. Hardened criminals being lumped with a boy who has stolen and in prison for 10 years only for lack of a lawyer, is appalling. They need to be segregated and scientifically handled. Putting cameras on police vans, police stations and employing 50% women in police stations, are other steps that can be taken immediately.

Despite the Delhi government not having control of the police, it is imperative to create a platform for women to complain, make sure the Delhi police registers cases without confrontation. Good street lighting and CCTV cameras helps control crimes against women. Efforts need not be top-down always. Social pressures can be exerted to get the police to perform as well.

Scandinavian countries have used technology brilliantly to cut down on crime.

Can we make Delhi safest? We can. With AAP in Delhi, for the next five years, it can be done.

VN: What are the changes that you have observed in the political system before 2014 and now?

AK: Political vindictiveness has really shot up. Congress attacked political rivals too, but now it has reached disturbing levels. Politicians have started attacking even the bureaucrats. Even guys who are neutral, are now perceived as anti-government.

Inability to accept opposing political views, inability to sit across the table and decide, polarization of people and sentiments, mainstream media playing into the hands of the present political dispensation, thereby not raising critical issues, missing out on floods in Maharashtra, Bihar, Punjab, which caused large scale damage, is cause for worry. There was hardly any media coverage even on the killing of 8 to 10 year old’s, Dalit kids, for open defecation by upper-caste villagers.

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The destruction of constitutional authority, the judiciary, the election commission is worrying.

It is critical now to create a public movement, against those who are creating this weird image of India and creating a hate culture even in countries like the USA, in Hungary, London, certain parts of Germany, in the Philippines, besides India. Irrespective of who is in power, it is very important to get India detoxified.

AAP is a party of professionals, something which we never saw as children. Back then we only saw professional politicians.

VN: What took you so long to realize congress is not the right fit for you?

AK: There are good people in all parties, who can make a difference. There are decent guys like Jairam Ramesh, Manish Tewari in congress as well. In my four years as a spokesperson for the party, I was not exposed to the kind of reality congress is associated with. I was focused on intellectuals in the party like Gaurav Vallabh, Priya Dutt, among others.

You go in believing that you will make a difference, but when the bad outweighs the good, then there is a problem. For a party to make a difference, a good narrative is essential, which congress has lost track of now.

VN: Would it have made a difference to AAP’s fortunes, if their flagship work like CCTV’s had not been delayed for almost three years by the center?

AK: AAP has been trying to function with their hands and legs tied, with somebody beating them up as well. These are a bunch of professionals fighting the state and then have MLA’s like Somnath Bharati arrested on false charges. Despite these handicaps, they have done a stellar job.

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The AAP model to work is critical. It is very important for this model to survive, to address issues which India has been suffering from since the death of Nehru, Sardar Patel, and Ambedkar.

VN: Why has AAP still not been accepted as a national party?

AK: We have a very strong narrative, enough to attract activists like Medha Patkar. However, we also need to recognize the gap between desire and deserved. We might have the desire to be in power in all states, but do we deserve to be in power in all states without backend support, without an organizational structure, or a public movement?

We need time to understand the issues of various states. The issue in Bihar and Jharkhand may be very different from that in Karnataka.

VN: What has been the response for your decision to join AAP, when joining AAP means a default prosecution by the center?

AK: Most recognize that I am finally the right person in the right party now. Where I do not have to worry about sacrificing my integrity while being able to work with professional guys like Saurabh Bharadwaj.

When you reach the last quarter of your life like me, you need to be with people whom you like, with people you can be honest with, without expecting any outcome. Whether I can be the chief minister or deputy chief minister is immaterial, but it is important for me to bring about significant changes in a person’s life.

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VN: Do you think there was any Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) tampering in the Lok Sabha elections, held a few months ago?

AK: Whether there was EVM tampering or no, still needs to be probed, but there definitely is organized tampering of the voting process, resulting in a threat to democracy. The voter lists are being manipulated. Election staff is also informing the party who is not in town. People need to realize that first hour fake voting by those not even in town, can result in a lead of 100 votes per booth, which when multiplied by 200 booths in a Vidhan sabha, ensures a win by 20,000 votes. One of the solutions to this problem can be that voter lists should be prepared in centralized places, not done door to door, which helps them create a suspicious list.

This assault on democracy is not even being discussed by congress, the principal opposition party because it is so caught up in its own issues.

VN: You have had a dream career’s in your life, as a doctor, as an IPS officer, in a management role in Tatas, and then as a politician as well. How do you view it now?

AK: My career was unplanned, a series of happy accidents.  As an academically bright student, medicine was a natural choice, until I started thinking of foreign service. My father was in foreign service, which enabled me to live in different countries as a child, which I wanted to continue doing. However, I landed in the police instead and things are so bad in the police that it is only the people who kept me going to do something for them.

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I got a taste of corporate life as well when I got an offer from Ratan Tata to join Tata Steel, after my successful stint in Jamshedpur, as a police officer.

Joining politics was a natural progression of me wanting something more meaningful for the people of Jamshedpur.

For young and good people, joining politics is a tough choice. AAP allows young boys and girls, with no political experience, with just their heart and soul in the right place, to work with them. To join the BJP, you have to come in through the RSS system and to join the congress you have to be connected.

As first time MP in 2009, when I won, everyone else lost their deposits. Even when I lost the second time on a congress ticket in 2014, I still got over four lakh votes. It broke my heart because I was always on the field, except when parliament was in session. Then I reminded myself that Abraham Lincoln too had lost 11 elections. Even Ambedkar lost a series of elections until Congress supported him to win.

As an MP. I put solar lights in every village in Jamshedpur, signed two lakh aadhar cards, created a call center to handle poor patients and then sent them to the right doctors. They ended up treating as many as two lakh patients referred by me for free.

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I started halls in every panchayat and re-started overnight long-distance trains which had stopped from Jamshedpur.  I wrote three lakh letters to different officials to get various work done in the constituency and still lost.

When we did our survey later, people told me that Ajoy Kumar is a good guy, but we want to vote for Narendra Modi, as prime minister. “Hum to peeche ja rahe hain, lein desh to aage ja raha hai”, loosely translated as we are going backward, but at least the country is going forward!

That is when my faith in the integrity and hard work was shaken.

VN: How do you view corruption in the country?

AK: It is important to understand that it is the governance model you adopt that will get rid of corruption. The bureaucrats and government officials will implement the laws of the land on the ground, but as directed by the governance model in place.

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The underbelly of corruption has existed for long, and AAP is seen as a threat and had to be finished. It is remarkable that Arvind Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia are still standing despite all this.

VN: Fascism not just in India, but all over the world, has become a formidable beast. How will it end?

AK: With political mobilization, raising the right issues, fascism will die. The big and mighty fascists will most certainly fall, in our lifetime.

VN: What would your advice to youngsters today be?

AK: It is very important to create a vision board, choose tasks and keep at it consistently. There are two books which I would like to recommend reading as well, ‘21 letters on Life and its Challenges’, by Charles handy and ‘Great by choice’ by Jim Collins.

In challenging times, it is important to question as journalist Ravish Kumar did, “It is not important to win all battles, just important to know which side of the battle you were on”.

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