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When citizens turned giant slayers

December 10, 2013 10:27 IST

When citizens turned giant slayers

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Sreelatha Menon

The people who helped make the AAP's remarkable Delhi victory

They toppled giants. Men and women of the AAP have brought down mighty ministers of the Congress government in this city, people with a hitherto unbroken record of repeated election victories.

The biggest of them all, Arvind Kejriwal, founder-head of the Aam Aadmi Party, who ended the unbroken spell of rule of Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, mentioned their names with pride and said they were the best examples of what ordinary citizens can achieve.

Rakhi Birla, Ashok Chauhan, ‘Commando’ Surinder... there were many others like them. Unknown till the other day and suddenly celebrities in their area, these people made victorious by tens of thousands of votes from people like them.

Binod Kumar Binny is a typical example. His victim was none other than Delhi’s outgoing health and finance minister A K Walia, who had never lost an election since he first contested 20 years earlier.

Binny was slightly better off than the rest; he’d contested elections before. In fact, he won elections twice as a municipal councillor but as an independent.

Sitting outside a tiny office in East Delhi’s Laxmi Nagar, he says he knew people were so disgusted with both major parties that they would go for an honest alternative. “That is the reason I won twice,” he says. He joined AAP in March this year, as a natural follow-up to his support for the anti-corruption movement.

He could identify with the issues the AAP had been talking of and well before it thought of the idea, would not spend a paisa of public money without consulting the people in his area.

“I came to know of the word ‘mohalla sabha’ from the AAP but I was already following the principle of consultation. And, such was the impact of this gesture that in the second election, all my opponents lost their deposit,” says Binny. “So, I was sure the AAP would fill the gap for an honest alternative and joined it.”

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When citizens turned giant slayers

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Sreelatha Menon

Binny grew up in the urban village of Dallupura, Khichdipur, a place which has graduated to a non-village , with developers building apartments there. He went to neighbouring government schools and got a degree from Delhi University. After which, he was hanging around, helping his brother run a shop or do little things in the community which made him popular.

He says he does not mind fighting an election again. “I’m confident that I will win,” says Binny, who won this time by an 8,000-vote margin.

Rakhi Birla defeated minister Rajkumar Chauhan, who’d never seen defeat in elections from the reserved constituency of Mangolpuri in the northwest. She’s only in her 20s but is known in the area because of her work among Dalits. A journalist, she was working for a private news channel. She decided to take the plunge after seeing her father, a former Congress worker, work for the anti-corruption movement in the past two years.

Surinder Singh has fought in wars and military operations. The Kargil war was one; he was also in the 1988 operation against Sikh terrorists at Amritsar’s Golden Temple. And, at the National Security Guards operation after the Mumbai terrorist attacks.

He was one of those who landed at Hotel Taj to rescue the trapped inmates and got injured while fighting, losing his hearing. He was relieved from the job and the AAP took up his case when he was denied pension benefits. An activist in the Jan Lokpal movement, he was cited as one of the party’s heroes by Kejriwal after the victory.

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Photographs: Courtesy AAP on Facebook

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When citizens turned giant slayers

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Sreelatha Menon

Another AAP hero is Ashok Chauhan, an intermediate pass without any particular job. He had played enough cricket and done enough social service to make him a familiar name in Ambedkar Nagar, the constituency where he unseated legislative assembly speaker, Prem Singh -- the latter had been contesting and winning since the late 1950s.

There are many others in this roll. Such as Somnath Bharthi, a lawyer and a postgraduate from IIT Delhi. He trounced minister Kiran Walia in South Delhi’s Malviya Nagar. That this 39-year-old lawyer got people there to come out and vote in large numbers in his very first election is as much his achievement as of his party.

The prospect of a re-election (due to a possibly hung legislature) has not dashed the hopes of these new MLAs.

Asked if he was disappointed, Binny says: “We did not come to enjoy power. We came to change the system."


Photographs: Courtesy AAP on Facebook

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