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Why the Boogie Woogie star is fighting an election

April 29, 2014 12:33 IST

''If BJP is the future of the country, it's a very dangerous future'

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Swarupa Dutt in Lucknow

'Justice delayed is justice denied. "Move on, move on", sure, we'll move on, but first give us justice.'

'The fabric and foundation of a democratic government is justice. You can't just move on, sorry. And that works for the anti-Sikh riots, the repatriation of Kashmiri Pandits; give us justice, then govern,' says Javed Jafri, the actor who will contest the Lok Sabha election in Lucknow for the Aam Aadmi Party.

In this conversation with Swarupa Dutt/Rediff.com, Jafri says he doesn't waste time listening to "enemies of the nation" and feels he is running parallel to the BJP's Rajnath Singh as far as winnability in Lucknow is concerned.

A security guard points us to Paramount Apartments in the Dali Bagh area of Lucknow. "Woh AAP walon ka office (that is the AAP office)," he says and offers, "Pata nahin kyun mooh kala karne nikal rahein hain (Don't know why he is intent on making a fool of himself)."

The fragrance of biryani wafts up the stairs as we walk down to the basement of the building. It is 3:30 pm and the volunteers have just had time for lunch after an intensive round of door-to-door campaigns in the morning.

The Aam Aadmi Party candidate from Lucknow, Syed Ahmed Javed Jafri, actor and Mumbaikar, is not there; he has left for the jansampark (a meet-and-greet-people padyatra) at Sheesh Mahal in old Lucknow, a predominantly Muslim area.

Please click NEXT to read further...


Image: Javed Jafri campaigns in Lucknow.
Photographs: Reuben NV/Rediff.com

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'You have tried everyone. Try us this time'

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Swarupa Dutt/Rediff.com

When he arrives in an open jeep, there is a definitive buzz in the air, not so much for the party, but for Javed Jafri, the personality.

In the partly Shia and partly Sunni area of Husainabad, Jafri walks the talk, shaking hands, sometimes a vigorous embrace, an adaab, a courteous conversation with veiled women, all the while, smiling, never making promises, asking people to give the party and him one chance -- "Sab ko parkha aapne, ab humein parkhein (You have tried everyone. Try us this time)."

At the end of a three-hour walk in the searing Lucknow heat, manoeuvring narrow lanes that allow only single-file access, Jafri makes a speech that draws cheers, whistles, applause from the people, a speech in Urdu tinged Hindi, untainted by English.

So, will they vote for him?

"Will you tell him what we tell you?" they ask.

"OK, we won't. We like him, we have watched him in films and on TV, but kya karein, hum toh sadiyon se Congress ko hi vote detein aaye hue hain (We have always voted for the Congress)."

Please click NEXT to read Swarupa Dutt's lively interview with Javed Jafri....


Image: An AAP volunteer places a party cap on a member of the public in Lucknow.
Photographs: Reuben NV/Rediff.com

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'I haven't come here to do politics. I have come here to change politics'

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Swarupa Dutt/Rediff.com

Why politics, why the AAP?

Why not? It is the only party which is vigorously anti-corruption in word and deed, as well as anti-communal and anti-dynasty.

I was influenced by the India Against Corruption movement and when AAP was formed, I thought why not enter politics.

I have come here to be a part of the system, to provide a solution to the problems of the common man. I have come here to change the mindset.

Hum rajniti karne nahin aaye hain, rajniti badalne aaye hain (I haven't come here to do politics, I have come here to change politics).

Did AAP approach you?

No, I did. I spoke to Arvind Kejriwal and said I wanted to join your party.

Please click NEXT to read Swarupa Dutt's lively interview with Javed Jafri....


Image: Javed Jafri, left, greets a voter in Lucknow.
Photographs: Reuben NV/Rediff.com

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'I wish I had a counter for the number of hands I've shook'

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Swarupa Dutt/Rediff.com

How different is being a politician and hosting Boogie Woogie?

Not very different. It is about connecting with the people. I think it is very easy, because for me it comes from the heart. I don't do drama. Doing this (waves at people), or this (namaste) is easy.

I wish I had a counter for the number of hands I've shook. I connect with people.

But are people connecting with you?

Yes, they are, absolutely.

How do you know that?

I can see it, na. They come up to me and talk to me. People here are genuine.

Are they talking to Javed Jafri, or are they talking to an AAP candidate?

Both, I think. The AAP is the bigger context, so they connect with me initially because I am an actor, but they will vote for me because I represent them, the common man.

I have driven a cycle rickshaw, ironed clothes, gone to the zardosi factory, and seen how people live in this city.

Please click NEXT to read Swarupa Dutt's lively interview with Javed Jafri....


Image: Connecting with the people is very easy for me as it comes from the heart, says Javed Jafri.
Photographs: Reuben NV/Rediff.com

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'I have come as an Indian. I haven't come on a Muslim platform'

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Swarupa Dutt/Rediff.com

May be, but you are still an outsider for Lucknow, so why go with Lucknow?

So? Rajnath Singh (the BJP president and the Lucknow candidate) is an outsider. I mean, c'mon ya, it's just the exterior. You give someone a shirt and he becomes a part of Lucknow (referring to the BJP colours). That's ridiculous.

Gimme a break, I'm from this country, I'm no outsider.

I thought of being the candidate from Bandra (Mumbai North Central), but Priya Dutt (of the Congress) is contesting from there, she has done work for her constituency and I know the family, so I did not want to contest from there. And the other constituencies were taken.

They (the AAP) suggested Lucknow, and I thought why not, I know the language and the culture.

None of the other major parties have fielded a Muslim candidate. Is that why you were fielded from Lucknow, to fill that vacuum?

It is so strange that a Hindu candidate is not asked this question.

Why is Rajnath Singh not asked this question?

Why is Rita Bahuguna not asked if she is appealing to the pahadi voter? The question does not make sense to me.

I have come as an Indian. I haven't come on a Muslim platform. This is not a religious platform.

But yes, I see your point, the Muslim vote is actually the most divided vote. They think, woh log sab apne apne logon ko deten hain, hum bhi denge. (People vote according to caste and religion). So if there is a valid Muslim candidate, they will vote for him.

Please click NEXT to read Swarupa Dutt's lively interview with Javed Jafri....


Image: Muslims will vote for a valid Muslim candidate, says Javed Jafri.
Photographs: Reuben NV/Rediff.com

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'Let's call Kejriwal's quitting a mistake'

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Swarupa Dutt/Rediff.com

Does Arvind Kejriwal's 'bhagoda' (quitting as Delhi chief minister in 49 days) image affect your candidature?

Look ya, the bhagoda (escapist) image is painted by the opposition and the media. They can't find any other title that fits, they can't say he is communal. So, chalo, let's call him bhagoda.

Tell me, how inexcusable is it that Kejriwal quit? He thought, 'I don't have a majority, I can't pass the bill (the Jan Lokpal Bill), do I have a choice? I should quit.'

He didn't quit on a whim, he had reasons. He had promised the people of Delhi that he would get the bill passed.

But Delhi also voted him for governance, let alone good governance, not to quit.

No no no no, they voted him for the Jan Lokpal bill. If his hands are tied down, what is the point of the seat? Look at the baggage the other parties come with, it's like comparing somebody who broke a glass and somebody who committed murder. Severity of the crime toh dekho.

So, you think it was a crime to quit?

No, no, I don't mean it like that. Let's call it a mistake. Somebody is doing goondaraj, somebody is sponsoring riots, somebody is siphoning of billions of rupees; compared to that, what is this (quitting as CM)?

Please click NEXT to read Swarupa Dutt's lively interview with Javed Jafri....


Image: Posters and flags showing AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal at a road show in Lucknow.
Photographs: Reuben NV/Rediff.com

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'AAP will overshoot the BJP soon in Lucknow'

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Swarupa Dutt/Rediff.com

So, how long have you been in Lucknow?

Three weeks.

Is it enough to create awareness about the AAP?

No, it is not enough, but there is awareness about the AAP. You see, voting becomes a habit, voters think the Congress or BJP are known parties, so let's vote for them. Jaise kehte hai na, andho mein kana raja (the better of the worse wins if there is no choice).

How do you rank your prospects in Lucknow?

We are running parallel to the BJP. And I think we will overshoot them soon.

That's not what people are saying. Many in this city believe you will lose your deposit.

I know I won't. In my heart, I know that's not true.

Please click NEXT to read Swarupa Dutt's lively interview with Javed Jafri....


Image: There's awareness about the AAP in Lucknow, says Javed Jafri, seen here drinking a glass of tea.
Photographs: Reuben NV/Rediff.com

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'So when you say, forget what happened, that's bullshit'

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Swarupa Dutt/Rediff.com

How do you feel about statements like BJP leader Giriraj Singh saying 'Those opposing Modi will have to go to Pakistan?'

You know, what they say, kuch toh log kahenge, logon ka kaam hai kehna. Chhodon in bekaar ki baton ko (People will always have some things to say.. One should not get affected)...

People who make statements like this are enemies of the country.

By god, you are pulling us down. Amit Shah (the former Gujarat minister of state for home and the man in charge of the BJP's campaign in UP), (VHP leader Dr Pravin) Togadia are enemies of the nation. I don't waste my time listening to these people.

Is the BJP the future of the country?

I hope not, because if it is, it is a very dangerous future.

I think by and large, people, especially Hindus, are being taken over by the vikaaaas (stretches out the word and repeats it several times).

Hitler's SS chiefs are being brought to trial 70 years after World War II, because people want justice. So when you say, forget what happened, (referring to the Gujarat riots of 2002), that's bullshit.

Justice delayed is justice denied. 'Move on, move on', sure, we'll move on, but first give us justice.

The fabric and foundation of a democratic government is justice. You can't just move on, sorry. And that works for the anti-Sikh riots, the repatriation of Kashmiri Pandits; give us justice, then govern.

Please click NEXT to read Swarupa Dutt's lively interview with Javed Jafri....


Image: AAP volunteers pass through a narrow bylane in Lucknow.
Photographs: Reuben NV/Rediff.com

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'I believe Modi was involved in the 2002 riots'

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Swarupa Dutt/Rediff.com

Do you think Narendra Modi was involved in the Gujarat riots?

Yes, I believe he was involved and he should be made to pay for it.

What's the name of that inspector? Van... (asks an AAP worker) ya, Vanzara, he is still out there. (Jafri confuses suspended Gujarat police officer D G Vanzara who is in prison since 2007 for his alleged involvement in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case).

How will the AAP change all that you think is wrong with the system?

Read our manifesto. There is the concept of right to recall, Swaraj, we will give the common man their rights.

The manifesto has some radical thoughts, things that have not been tried out in politics before, but it is only through it that we can give power to the people.

Actually, return power to the people.

Please click NEXT to read Swarupa Dutt's lively interview with Javed Jafri....


Image: Javed Jafri interacts with Muslim women in Lucknow.
Photographs: Reuben NV/Rediff.com

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'I will not make promises, but we will prioritise their problems through the mohalla sabhas'

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Swarupa Dutt/Rediff.com

You have not made promises while campaigning.

For 65 years we have been listening to promises. I will not make promises, but we will prioritise their problems through the mohalla sabhas.

What do you need? Do you need a toilet or a school? If they say, toilet, we will work towards it.

Who made a decision about all those parks in Lucknow (referring to former UP chief minister Mayawati's memorial parks)?

Would you want Arvind Kejriwal campaigning for you?

Yes, I do. Who wouldn't? But he is extremely busy with Varanasi and Amethi. I have faith, I have worked here.

But he hasn't campaigned for you. Is it a reflection on your candidature?

Lucknow is a difficult seat. I would not be disappointed if he can't make the time and campaign for me. I am gung ho; in Delhi what kind of support did we have, but we still formed the government.

AAP candidates have to spend from their own funds, there is no party funding.

We have Rs 40 crore (Rs 400 million) as funds for all India. We don't have that kind of funds, so it is okay, we manage.


Image: Javed Jafri addresses a road show in Lucknow.
Photographs: Reuben NV/Rediff.com

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