Arvind Kejriwal's hunger strike, billed to position his political outfit Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) as a significant contender in 2013 Delhi assembly polls, ended on Saturday.
Through the fast, which lasted for 15 days, AAP reiterated that the hike in the fares of water and power will be its poll plank in the upcoming assembly polls. This is an issue on which Kejriwal had held a series of meetings across Delhi during February-mid March.
"People ask me what is the outcome of my fast. My fast has made it clear that next election will be fought on bijli-paani," he said.
The agitation took the social activist-turned-politician away from Delhi's power corridors. In order to reach out to voters, Kejriwal shifted base from Central Delhi, where he conducted Jan Lokpal agitation during April 2011- August 2012, to Sunder Nagri, a shanty town in North-East Delhi. He stayed put in the house of Santosh, one of his oldest associates who joined him when he started the NGO 'Parivartan' in the locality in 2002. For politics, it was important to be amidst voters, he had said before starting his fast.
For his party, Kejriwal's fast was a medium to pitch itself as starkly different from the current political parties. Despite being in electoral politics and days away from asking for votes, AAP wants to be the seen as a party which is averse to conforming to the traditional idea of being in politics for power. "They (people) say that we are hungry for power. I wonder what makes them say this. I have fasted for fifteen days for a people's cause. How can I be hungry for power?" said Kejriwal on Saturday.
Although social activist Anna Hazare distanced himself from Kejriwal in September last over the latter's decision to take the political plunge, Kejriwal used the occasion to reach out to him.
Before beginning his fast, he met Hazare in his village to take his blessing; Hazare visited him in Sunder Nagri; AAP members managed to get a letter from him urging Kejriwal to end his hunger strike. Hazare's flip- flop has given rise to the speculation that he may campaign for AAP once the party announces its candidates by min- 2013.
Except the first and the last days, when around 300 people thronged the fast venue, the crowd at the fast venue was thin. AAP maintained that unlike its previous agitations, numbers did not matter as this time the idea was to decentralise the protest.
The event helped the party gauge its support base in the national capital around seven months before Delhi assembly elections. In the last 14 days, its cadre of volunteers claims to have collected more than ten lakh support letters in which Delhi residents pledged not to pay their bills. AAP acknowledged the criticism that the campaign might be dismissed as a letter signing exercise. "Ten lakh people signing letters does not mean all of them will not pay their bills. But if even if ten percent of them actually don't pay their bills, we will achieve our purpose," Kejriwal said on Friday.