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Rediff.com  » News » Kejriwal on street politics: 'Hamari rajniti to aise hi chalegi'

Kejriwal on street politics: 'Hamari rajniti to aise hi chalegi'

Last updated on: January 21, 2014 19:34 IST

Kejriwal on street politics: Hamari rajniti to aise hi chalegi

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Sheela Bhatt

Sheela Bhatt spends a bleak, rainy, winter day at the Aam Aadmi Party’s dharna outside the Union home ministry in New Delhi and speaks exclusively to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal about his motivations.

Rail Bhavan, the headquarters of the Indian Railways, is a sprawling building opposite one of the entry points to Parliament in New Delhi.

Right opposite the main entry of Rail Bhavan, Delhi Chief Minister’s Arvind Kejriwal’s blue Wagon R is parked. Due to weak health and light showers he is sitting in the car since morning. His wife Sunita brings him food from home.

Kejriwal and his colleagues slept, last night, on the footpath adjoining the Parliament complex. Kejriwal uses the washroom of Rail Bhavan. Kejriwal looks very pale. He is diabetic. His unshaven face makes him look lost. On the opposite footpath, many mattresses are kept under a plastic wrap. Two hawkers are selling pakodas.

Some 100 journalists including Japanese and Americans are talking to Aam Aadmi Party leaders and workers. Manoj Sisodia is most sought after AAP leader and he is humble and soft spoken.

Law Minister Somnath Bharati, whose altercation with police officers brought Kejriwal to the footpath, has been told to not speak to the media anymore. He said in his speech on Monday that people will spit on Arun Jaitley and Harsh Salve type of leaders. He is an over-confident loud-mouth. The party has now restrained him. His excuse to reporters was that he had lost his voice. 

The area is normally busy but hassle-free due to the security paraphernalia of Parliament. Rail Bhavan is on the busy junction where Krishi Bhavan, the Press Club of India, Red Cross House and Shastri Bhavan are located.

Nobody could ever imagine that the circle will one day see New Delhi’s elected and sworn-in chief minister spending a night here.

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Image: AAP leader Manish Sisodia (in red) gestures near the car carrying Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal
Photographs: Anindito Mukherjee/Reuters

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Kejriwal on street politics: Hamari rajniti to aise hi chalegi

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Sheela Bhatt

The elite ministers and secretaries, those powerful people inside government offices located on the junction, may find this sleeping on footpath in the severe cold, awkward, odd and even bizarre. But not all people dismiss Kejriwal’s latest move. Even the policemen were giving a mixed response. They are in the hundreds in the area. The security reminds one of Lal Chowk in Srinagar during the insurgency era. 

Yogendra Yadav, AAP’s political analyst is the intelligent voice legitimising Kejriwal’s politics. Last night he was here giving the ‘logic’ behind the protests.

Kejriwal’s actions are difficult for the old-style political class to understand. Education Minister Sisodia and Yadav carry the burden of debating street politics with sophistication so that it would look good on television screens.

Some hundred plus AAP workers are squatting on the road. The road around the Rail Bhavan is not crowded. There are some six roads that spread out from the circle but at all points police have organised a bandobast. Except journalists and elected MLAs very few people are able to touch base with Kejriwal.

The central government is not allowing AAP supporters to circle Kejriwal. That is creating a problem for AAP who are not able to repeat Jantar Mantar type of demonstrations. Also AAP just can’t afford any violence. With Lok Sabha election so close, both sides, the police and AAP leaders, are treading carefully.

Section 144 has been imposed by the police making Kejriwal’s dharna illegal.

Many people are singing, some are shouting “Delhi hui hamari, ab desh ki bari.”

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Photographs: Anindito Mukherjee/Reuters

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Kejriwal on street politics: Hamari rajniti to aise hi chalegi

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Sheela Bhatt

In his car, Kejriwal is constantly talking on his Samsung mobile phone. The man is changing ground rules of Indian politics. Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh is in the news for allegedly planning a palatial bungalow worth Rs 81 crore as his official residence in one of India’s poorest regions while Kejriwal is squatting in 4 degree celsius cold in spite of an acute cough.

How is it possible that the message will be lost on poor people who also are forced to bear the cold? How is it possible that in villages and towns across India, where the brutal police is the final word, that Kejriwal will not be heard?

Kejriwal sits next to his driver. He says he is tired. His voice is hoarse.

His demand is quite simple but actually beyond that he is here to set the agenda. What he wants is that in whichever circumstances he loses power, he should be not blamed. He also wants his AAP to be a pan-Indian party.

He has taken the excuse of a small event to start a dharna. His party claims that residents of Khirki Extension had made numerous written and verbal complaints to the police about alleged illegal activities including sale of drugs in the area. Complaints were made to Station House Officer, Malaviya Nagar, Deputy Commissioner of Police (South) and the Commissioner of Police.

Kejriwal’s party says, “The AAP wants to target the illegal drug and sex racket run by the local mafia. People of the area were concerned about illegal activities for long time and even complained to police multiple times but no action had been taken.”

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Image: Kejriwal on the phone in his now-famous Maruti Suzuki Wagon R
Photographs: Sheela Bhatt

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Sheela Bhatt

Bharati, as local representative of the area, went to the spot to respond to people's request and was only asking for police's action. AAP says they were not targeting nor ever will target someone based on race, religion or caste and will stand with people who are neglected by the system.

But when the issue flared up and Bharati was caught on the wrong foot, Kejriwal ignored the nitty-gritty, defended Bharati to raise a bigger and valid question. Why should New Delhi suffer just because it is the national capital? Why should the chief minister of New Delhi not have total control over the police force as CMs of other states have?  

On this issue, precisely, he is on footpath opposite Rail Bhavan. If the Congress accepts the demand of suspending the police officers involved in the ‘drug racket’ and the issue of a woman’s unnatural death, Kejriwal will be strengthened. If Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, meaning the Congress, doesn’t take any action even then Kejriwal will score amongst his core constituency. Because, his question is correct. The risk of street politics for Kejriwal is that he may lose floating voters but the advantage is that he will consolidate his core constituency.

When, in an exclusive interview to rediff.com, we asked him, “why are you escaping from running the government?”

He said with all the energy at his command, he is not at all running away from the government. He has done more than enough in last 20 days. He has prepared a dossier of things that his government has already done.  

He told rediff.com that the message from the dharna at Rail Bhavan is that, “Now politics of this country will not be run from closed doors of air-conditioned rooms.”

When asked how he initially said he doesn’t want people to join him, later he gave a call to people to join him, he said, “Our thinking evolves. When we saw that people are concerned about the larger issue of having control over police we extended our dharna.” 

Kejriwal repeatedly said that he is fighting people’s issues and he is sure that he has support of the people on the issue of corruption within the police force and people want the police to take actions for the benefit of people.

When he was told about his public image getting affected he counter-questioned, "Have you talked with people?"

He refuses to accept that people are not particularly enamoured by his way of conducting politics.

He told rediff.com emphatically, “Hamari rajniti to aise hi chalegi!” 


Image: Law Minister Somnath Bharati

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