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AAP ki kasam! When Mumbai fell for Kejriwal

Last updated on: March 14, 2014 15:30 IST

AAP ki kasam! When Mumbai fell for Kejriwal

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Vaihayasi Pande Daniel in Mumbai

Mumbaikars jumped out of vehicles to take a closer look the 'aam aadmi' hero. They WhatsApped images of him, requested selfies.

Arvind Kejriwal swept Mumbai off its feet on Wednesday, and how!

Rediff.com's Vaihayasi Pande Daniel reports the metropolis's response to the man of the masses. Photographs: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com

Pravin Jain got off his scooter with a smile on his face.

He quickly parked it in a lane near Novelty Cinema, close to Lamington Road in South Mumbai. He then made his way to the centre of the street, diving right into the middle of the thick crowd and approaching the slow-moving jeep to wave and say 'hello' to Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal.

"Veer aadmi hain (he's a brave man)," Jain said with vigorous admiration before he returned to his scooter and went on his way.

That tiny moment Jain took out of his probably busy day, to tip his hat to this unlikely new Indian hero, mirrored similar reactions elsewhere on Wednesday, March 12, in Mumbai.

Kejriwal's caravan colourfully kicked off its first public rally in Mumbai, not surprisingly, at the historic August Kranti Maidan, South Mumbai, brandishing jhadoos (brooms), from an open jeep.

Ahead of them moved a tempo where AAP partywallahs cheerfully belted out slogans and songs to the accompaniment of guitars and danced, banging desi tambourines.

With Kejriwal in the election jeep was the Aam Aadmi Party candidate for Mumbai South, former banker Meera Sanyal, not a hair out of place, but somewhat disconnected, in a splendid silk sari, and Medha Patkar, the Narmada Bachao Andolan activist-turned-AAP candidate from Mumbai North East, by contrast in a plain sari, rallying the crowds with her special common touch.

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Image: AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal greets a supporter in Mumbai on Wednesday, March 12.
Photographs: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com

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'I'm hitting the streets for a politician after more than 30 years'

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Vaihayasi Pande Daniel

The tenor of the AAP rally was a hark back to the days of the freedom movement -- the choice of August Kranti Maidan where Mahatma Gandhi began the Quit India movement in 1942 -- and the slogans were all about Inqilaab, Vande Mataram, and saving Bharat Mahaan. The songs were patriotic, some of them old Hindi film numbers.

The topi-sporting folk -- some volunteers, some recruits -- who marched alongside were a mixed bunch, of all ages, and from all income backgrounds.

Students, pensioners, professionals, social workers, women, men, artistes, young folks.

The uniting factor? They were very different from the folks you would find accompanying at political rallies.

Said a volunteer and resident of Breach Candy, South Mumbai, 'I am hitting the streets like this for a politician after more than 30 years."

From within the halted traffic, people boisterously waved, or jumped out of vehicles to have a closer look.

Hundreds of pictures were taken on camera phones belonging to anyone from a taxi driver to a teenager to a more well-heeled Sobo (South Bombay) type.

The eco-friendly jhadoo-emblemed Gandhi topis, that volunteers handed out, were quickly donned and many joined in the cheering and sloganeering.

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Image: Hundreds of Mumbaikars gathered to get a glimpse of Arvind Kejriwal as his procession wended its way trough South Mumbai.
Photographs: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com

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'I wanted to WhatsApp Kejriwal's picture to my son'

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Vaihayasi Pande Daniel

Kejriwal's road show travelled through the mixed Muslim-Hindu areas of Grant Road, Lamington Road, Nagpada and Byculla, all in South Mumbai.

Often times the road bifurcated localities, such that a Hindu area faced a Muslim one, across the thoroughfare -- but enthusiasm was equally evident on both sides of the road.

People hung out of their balconies cheering. Knots bunched at street corners to wave and cheer, or stood patiently at the side of the road with garlands.

The ragtag Kejriwal parade moved into each new area to accompanying bellowing shouts of "Kejriwal! Kejriwal! Kejriwal!... de jhadoo, de jhadoo. Atyachar ke liye lagao jhadoo!/em>

The crowd opinions were mostly positive.

"Good!"

"Achcha aadmi hain (he's a good man)."

"Bahadur (brave)," said Prashant.

"I wanted to see him," said a youngster.

Tempowallah Dilawar offered a vigorous thumbs up.

Salim, who parked his turquoise-colour car on the side to have a glimpse of Kejriwal, said, "Look what he has been able to do in six months!"

Shopkeepers said, "Kejriwal will win."

Someone added: "Sablog aam aadmi nahin lag raha hai. Kuch log peeche paisa wala lag raha hai (Everyone does not look like ordinary people. Some look like moneyed-people)."

Young girls, in burqas, hung around, singing along and enjoying the unexpected street carnival.

One day was too little time to allot to a vast, multi-cultural, multi-layered metropolis like Mumbai, a colleague pointed out. But Kejriwal did a brave job of taking Mumbai in a day. By storm, too.

The AAP leader arrived in Mumbai on Wednesday morning and was greeted by a small crowd of party supporters, sporting jhadoo topis.

A woman, who was at the airport, because her flight was passing through Mumbai, from Kolkata on the way to Goa, badly needed a picture of Kejriwal. She wanted to WhatsApp it to her son, who is a lawyer and is fond of Kejriwal. "I am doing it for my son," she said.

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Image: Arvind Kejriwal takes an autorickshaw from Mumbai airport to the Andheri railway station.
Photographs: Milind Tambe

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'Our harshest critics cannot dispute our intentions'

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Vaihayasi Pande Daniel

As Kejriwal emerged from the airport terminal into the Mumbai heat, in a blue cardigan, wisely minus his signature muffler, the media, out in tremendous force, pounced on him.

To catch the best shot, they jumped off chairs, ledges and parapets, trampling plants, creating a small riot, to the astonishment of airline passengers arriving at the terminal to catch a flight.

They chased him as he was bundled into an autorickshaw for his short ride to the Andheri station, where amidst a mad, dangerous skirmish, on a crowded railway platform, he caught a train to South Mumbai.

The business lunch, at Bajaj Bhavan in Mumbai's older business district, Nariman Point, to meet possible funders and fundraisers, had quite a different tone.

Businessmen grappled with Kejriwal's politics and his views on governance, FDI, Narendra Modi. They queried him, often very sharply, about his opinions.

In this milieu of money, Kejriwal quite easily held his ground, speaking fairly convincingly, extempore, swinging fluently between English and Hindi. He modulated his strident tone -- interspersing 'Sir's often in the conversation -- and tailored his approach, adopting the stance of the modest, small man trying to bring change, for these listeners.

"Our harshest critics cannot dispute out intentions. They are clean. And we are open. I request all of you to come into the circle and then decide what policies we need... You cannot sit outside and give gaalis... We all need to join hands..."

"People have got attracted to us because we are fighting with sachai and imandari. We have challenged the biggest forces in this country -- (they have realised) darte nahin ye ladke, in mein himmat hai (these boys don't get scared. They have fight in them)."

"What happened in Delhi (the AAP's impressive performance in the assembly election where the party came second to the Bharatiya Janata Party) has actually fired the imagination of people that maybe change can happen..."

"It is not because of the Aam Aadmi Party or Arvind Kejriwal. Those 28 seats (we won) in Delhi show the intensity of anger that the people have."

"When I am wandering around the country I see that anger everywhere. That can slowly be converted into seats. What impact it will make on this Lok Sabha or the next (does not matter)."

"The journey has to start today," he said, attempting to persuade the audience to his cause.

"There are three things that every government needs to focus on. The first is security. If there is no security, no security for your workers, no security for your employees, no personal security, what does the state of the economy matter, if the environment is not safe? And today neither the BJP nor the Congress is talking about it."

"The other is a system of justice. It is the job of the government to provide an efficient and honest justice delivery system. Our justice delivery system has totally collapsed..."

"The third job of a government is to provide an honest and corruption-free administration... Make it five. Education and health are two things very close to our heart. Our public schools and hospitals need to be as good as our private schools and hospitals."

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Image: Kejriwal interacts with businessmen at Bajaj Bhavan, Mumbai.
Photographs: Vaihayasi Pande Daniel/Rediff.com

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'If you lessen Modi's chances of coming to power, you are doing something anti-national'

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Vaihayasi Pande Daniel

A businessman declared he "does not want to give bribes," but says he must to survive, but he is ready to offer his vote, so there will be change.

Kejriwal comes back smartly with, "Give us funds too" to the accompaniment of laughter.

The entire room is far from sold on Kejriwal's cause. Says one man, "Apart from (Narendra) Modi, there is no leader who can take this country in the right direction. Modi should be given a chance. If you are against him and if you lessen his chances of coming to power, in my view you are doing something anti-national."

Kejriwal hardly reacts.

Another man adds, "All of us use computers. There are two necessary tools within a system. One is an operating system. One is an anti virus. Each one has its role."

"So you think I am the anti-virus?" the IITian Kejriwal asks.

A third man appeals, "We want you to support Modi in this time of crisis."

Kejriwal speaks at length about his visit to Gujarat and the kind of progress, or lack of it, he saw there.

He speaks about the "organised, transparent" corruption he had a chance to see. "In each government department there is a BJP desk. There you have to give by cheque to the BJP development fund (before you can get a task done)."

Kejriwal does make an impact. The consensus of many in the room -- "He speaks well. I just love this man. He is attempting to do what we do not want to leave our comforts to do."

At the end of the event, many businessmen quickly transmute into fan boys and request selfies with him, before Kejriwal rushes out for his first rally of the day.

Office-goers waiting at Bajaj Bhavan ask the police to let them take pictures, "We want to see what our future PM looks like."

One photographer says he works for Reliance and tracking to see what Kejriwal said about his "boss".

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Image: AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal after his interaction with businessmen.
Photographs: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com

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'They say Muslims are in danger, they say Hindus are in danger... I say the whole country is in danger'

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Vaihayasi Pande Daniel

The August Kranti maidan rally wound its way, at a brisk pace, through a significant chunk of central Mumbai, before landing up at Khilafat House.

Khilafat House was chosen for historic impact as it was home to the Khilafat movement that united the Indian National Congress, led by Mahatma Gandhi, with Khilafat Muslim leaders.

Kejriwal told a roomful of Muslims, "Some people say Muslims khatre mein hain. Some say Hindus khatre mein hai. I say the whole desh is in khatra."

The eastern suburb of Mankhurd-Deonar, right across the city, at the centre of Medhatai's Mumbai North East constituency was Kejriwal's next destination.

In this largely slum-dweller neighbourhood of Muslims, Gujaratis, Maharashtrians and some North Indians, Patkar will face the Nationalist Congress Party's incumbent MP Sanjay Dina Patil, and the BJP's former MP, Kirit Somaiya.

The mood here is quite different -- less curiosity, more matter-fact -- and pretty much formulaic of a political rally in a slum, and a meeting between a neta who might provide, and the janata -- garlanding, haath-milaana, tikka ceremonies, kiddy-cheek-pinching moments, homage to a Dr B R Ambedkar statue at Ramabai Chawl to show his respect for Dalits (on July 13, 1997 the police opened fire on a mob of Dalits for rioting following the desecration of this Ambedkar statue).

"Yes, we know who Kejriwal is. We saw him on television. We are on the side of sachai."

Medha Patkar is a hot favourite, too. At whichever slum you stop, everyone claims to have worked with her -- she is one of them, they tell you with a mixture of awe and affection.

Muslim women wearing burqas sport incongruous Kejriwal topis. As the cavalcade moves through, the head gear is a big hit and soon virtually every slum child is wearing one as they continue to play gulli-danda or catapults.

"Haan, woh toh Delhi se aaya hai. Mukhya mantra hai."

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Image: Kejriwal supporters join his road show in Mumbai.
Photographs: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com

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There is a blistering attack on a series of juicy targets -- the Ambanis, the police, the media, the Gandhis, the Pawars...

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Vaihayasi Pande Daniel

At Shivajinagar, Govandi, North East Mumbai, a Muslim man says, "I don't know if Kejriwal will win, but what I hear and read from the newspapers that he is a honest man and is doing good work."

"Change is inevitable. We don't know who will rule the country, but change has to happen. Price rise has become uncontrollable."

Kejriwal, travelling now in a steel grey Innova, finds his way to his last engagement of the evening at Vikhroli East, North East Mumbai. It is a meeting at a maidan in Kannamwar Nagar, a huge housing colony built for mill-worker families.

Kejriwal shares the stage with Meera Sanyal, Medha Patkar, AAP leader Mayank Gandhi and children dressed up in mufflers, AAP topis and mustaches as mini Kejriwals. Patkar is a crowd-puller and her speech is warmly received by the audience.

Kejriwal winds up the evening with a blistering attack on a series of juicy targets -- the politicians, the Ambanis, the police, the media, the Gandhis, the Pawars -- much to the delight of the crowd and the unease of senior police officers on duty, who warily check the crowd response.

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Image: Arvind Kejriwal, Medha Patkar and Meera Sanyal at a rally in Vikhroli, North Mumbai.
Photographs: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com

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'There's no Modi wave, only a wave of anger'

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Vaihayasi Pande Daniel

"In the last 10 years the Congress has broken all records of corruption. Itna paisa kamaya hai, itna paisa kamaya hai that in 200 years the British probably did not make as much money off India and take it back to London."

"For one year it is being told to us that there is a Modi wave. Modiji ki hawa hai.. I have been wandering around the country since I resigned as chief minister. I first went to Haryana. I saw no hawa. Only heat..."

"Then I went to Uttar Pradesh. I saw no hawa. Today I have come to Maharashtra. People told me that there is a big hawa in Bombay..."

"I have been wandering inside Bombay since morning, but I cannot see any hawa..."

"Is there any hawa Modiji ka?"

"Yes there is a wave for sure. Hawa is there definitely. Gussa ka wave. Zabardast gussa."

"For 66 years, we are being told to change this party and bring this party, change this neta, bring that neta. We need to change the arrangement! We need honest governance..."

"The Aam Aadmi Party has given a ray of hope that something can change in this country, in our lifetime, in just a few years. In a few years the country can change!"

"This time we have to defeat Rahul Gandhi. This time we have to defeat Sonia Gandhi. This time we have to defeat Narendra Modi. This time we have to defeat Kapil Sibal. This time we have to defeat Nitin Gadkari. This time we have to defeat Yeddyurappa. We have to defeat all these corrupt people."

"If Modi becomes prime minister, who will be his home minister? Amit Shah, who the Supreme Court has prevented from entering Gujarat. Yeddyurappa will be our mining minister. Ambani parivar ka damad (son-in-law) Saurav Patel will become the gas minister."

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Image: An AAP supporter with her baby joined Kejriwal's rally at Byculla, South Mumbai, and accompanied him to Govandi, North East Mumbai.
Photographs: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com

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'Kejriwal aage badho hum tumhare saath hain'

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Vaihayasi Pande Daniel

He is cheered hoarse, at the end of every sentence. A rousing cheer.

It is an electric response. The crowd of about 5,000 is totally engaged, hanging on to each word -- young men, old pensioners, women -- everyone joins in with the zindabads, inqilaabs, Kejriwal aage badho hum tumhare saath hain, and more.

An exceptionally fiery orator, Kejriwal, dressed in a blue bush shirt, grey pants and scuffed sandals speaks passionately, his eyes snapping and sparkling with emotion. And with anger.

Anger, which finds an echo in the audience.

He looks straight at the audience, right into your face, trying to speak to your heart. His audience stomps its feet, applauds in energetic agreement.

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Image: A mother with her two young daughters follow his convoy in Mumbai.
Photographs: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com

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