Elderly resident of Raghubir Nagar say they have traditionally voted for the Congress but excitement at Arvind Kejriwal’s rally showed just why the children are veering towards AAP
Jasleen Kaur | November 14, 2013
With the trademark Gandhi caps and pamphlets all around and volunteers shouting slogans on ‘jhadoo’ and corruption, the stage was set for the jan sabha (public rally) of Arvind Kejriwal in Madipur assembly constituency in West Delhi, some 6 km from Raghubir Nagar, on Wednesday night.
It looked like any other political rally in the run-up to the election but for a couple of aspects where the script took a 180-degree turn: a ‘dan-peti’ (contribution box for funds) on the dais, and a counter where people could become AAP members by paying a membership fee of Rs 10.
Volunteers asked people to contribute with "tan man aur dhan” as the party, they clarified, is not supported by any business group, “unlike other parties”.
The rally, or the ‘jan sabha, as AAP puts it, had true colours of a political campaign as well, with two dancers jiving to Bollywood songs on the stage to keep the crowd involved! And the duo did have work to do, as the man of the moment, AAP chief and anti-corruption crusader Arvind Kejriwal, was missing in action even 90 minutes after the time scheduled for the rally.
But the people gathered, though anxious, kept waiting patiently. And then, suddenly, an old man in the crowd pointed at a man crossing them and exclaimed, “Arre ye rahe Kejriwal, yehi se guzre abhi who! Hum logon ke beech se gaye! Ye hota hai neta – seedha stage pe jaa kar haath nahi hila kar chal diya.” (Hey, here’s Kejriwal! He just crossed us! That’s what a leader should be like – unlike people who come and wave from the dais and leave.)
The man, and the moment, the few hundred had been waiting for had arrived. Unlike most other political leaders, the path was not cleared for Kejriwal, as he preferred to cross the crowd to reach the dais.
The Delhi assembly elections, a traditional battleground between the Congress and the BJP, will see a three-cornered contest this time, as most pre-poll surveys indicate, and the fact that Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is a serious threat could be measured from the crowd assembled without the party making much effort to gather them.
Raghubir Nagar resident Mukesh, 35, said he spent Rs 20 on a shared auto-rickshaw to come to the venue with two friends. “The party workers visited and told us about the issues they are fighting for. I found them close to the problems we face, so we came here,” he said.
Post-meeting, Mukesh said he was impressed with Kejriwal’s emphasis on solving the ‘bijlee-paani’ (power and water supply) issues: “I have been voting for some time now but no other leader has ever talked about reducing electricity bills or ensuring our children get admission in schools. Kejriwal is talking about issues and problems we face every day.”
Insisting that the party has a clear vision on empowering people at the grassroots levels to invoke change at the higher levels, AAP supporters on the dais said, “The MLA (from AAP who are elected) will not have any power. He/she will just bring the fund, the people would prepare the budget.”
This brought smile on Mukesh’s friend Rajeev’s face. He could not believe what he heard. “I am not sure if they would actually do this but we have trusted the other two parties in the past and have seen the result. We can take a chance by voting for Aam Aadmi Party this time,” he said.
Back in the colony, people showed mixed feelings for the new party. The majority, after all, has voted for Congress in the past.
Around half of Rajouri Garden constituency is considered a stronghold of two-time MLA Daya Nand Chandela, who first became an MLA on a BJP ticket in 2003 and resigned later to win on a Congress ticket in a close fight. But Chandela, who has a criminal case against him, has not yet been given the ticket this time.
Mangi Devi, 59, said she lived in the slums of Shadipur for many years before shifting to Raghubir Nagar. “We have been voting for the Congress all these years. We learnt this (to vote for the party) from our elders. And why not? After all, they (Congress party) gave us these plots; they give us ration…. They are everything for us,” she said, adding that 70-75 percent of Gujarati voters, like her, in the locality vote for the Congress.
Her husband, Govind Solanki, 62, agreed: “Everyone in our family has always voted for the Congress, and we would continue to do so. But my children have stopped thinking like us,” he said. Showing a Rs-10 receipt his son got from an AAP worker a few days ago, Solanki said: “They (AAP volunteers) are taking money from our children to make them members of the party. Both my sons actually think the party would reduce electricity tariff if it comes to power. Aisi party aati hai aur chali jaati hai; Congress kitne saalo se hai.” (Such parties come and go; Congress has been there for years.)
Solanki’s daughter Leela interrupted her father at this juncture. “They would definitely reduce the electricity bill. They are thinking the way we think. They are talking about our problems. Why shouldn’t we vote for them?” asked the young girl, a first-time voter. AAP, Leela said, is the “only party” that has contacted them so far.
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