Arvind Kejriwal takes a break from politics of noise, quietly focusses on people who voted him to power

The EVM machines are back in their boxes. Those charged men in Gandhi caps seem to have dispersed on one long snack break somewhere, or an endless siesta in the shade. Stickers of brooms have peeled and fallen off the capital's green and yellow auto rickshaws, and the mics that once animated war cries like Jhaadu chalaao, beimaan bhagaao, have been muted.

Where is the chief minister of Delhi? One would have expected at least a comment from him on BJP fielding Ram Nath Kovind as their presidential candidate or, people expected him to chime in along with the Opposition chorus about Prime Minister Narendra Modi's silence on China. While the prime minister condemned the recent incidents of mob lynching in a tweet, he didn't say anything about the 'Not In My Name' protest march against lynchings of Muslims and Dalits at Jantar Mantar.

Once a darling of trolls, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal now lazily goes about just retweeting his deputy Manish Sisodia. He even retweets pictures of people taking selfies with Sisodia. Kejriwal seems to have resisted the urge to react to the political earthquake in Bihar last month. More so because Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar had backed Kejriwal earlier this year by terming the allegations by rebel AAP MLA Kapil Mishra as BJP's doing.

Forget political bickering, Kejriwal isn't even sharing movie recommendations on social media anymore. Where has Kejriwal's politics of activism, drama and noise vanished?

Firstpost walked into his residence in North Delhi's Civil Lines to ask him what he has been up to since 26 April, the day his party lost the capital's municipal body elections to the BJP.

Thrice a week, the chief minister hosts janata samvad at his residence and it will likely become a daily exercise. This is an open house for anybody who wants his or her civic grievance heard through public engagements with the chief minister or, with representatives from 17 departments including social welfare, education, health, urban-shelter, revenue, transport and the Jal board (depending on the gravity of the situation).

Kejriwal looked composed as the last complainant exited his room. Firstpost asked him the reason for his long absence from the limelight. "Ab kaam karna hai," he replied. "Politics is not for an individual. Its function lies in solving the grievances of the common man, who should be guaranteed security, justice and development," Kejriwal said.

He explained that he isn't away from public life, but is in fact right in the centre of it. "Politicians are duty-bound to meet the janata directly, that very janta which grapples with government offices to have their demands heard. At the janata samvad, we offer them a simple and direct solution to their problem. Those whose cases have not been heard, this is the last place where they should get justice," Kejriwal told Firstpost.

Arvind Kejriwal at Janta Samvad. Image procured by the author.

Arvind Kejriwal at Janata Samvad. Image procured by the author.

Between 9 and 11 am about 70 to 90 petitions are accepted but people mostly come in groups of three to four. At times, organised groups from mandis, anganwadis, and home guards also show up for the janata samvad.

While a 41-year-old patient undergoing dialysis treatment at Lok Nayak hospital complained of outdated equipment, a 30-year-old widow living in a Wazirpur slum cluster shared the story of irrigation and flood department officials smashing down her tiny dwelling and rendering her homeless. A couple from Paharganj has been paying double their electricity bill to BSES for last one year because of an administrative glitch of assigning two electricity metres to one address.

Interestingly, people from states like Bihar, Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab also come to the janata samvad with their problems, Kerjriwal's staff told Firstpost. Under such circumstances, the chief minister forwards the complaints to the chief ministers of their respective states. "We also receive complaints regarding the MCD, DDA and the Delhi Police (which are outside the control of the Delhi government). It is easier for us to push Delhi agencies. For grave police cases, I personally follow up with the Lieutenant Governor. We can also inform MCD commissioners about people’s grievances. As the chief minister, I can hope that other departments within the state will take my word seriously," said Kejriwal.

The entire system is insensitive to the concerns of the people, he said. There are multiple reasons for this, as Kejriwal said. "Firstly, there is a lot of work and fewer people to do that work. Recruitments haven't taken place in years, as a result of which many posts have remained vacant. Therefore, fewer people are taking on huge amounts of work. Second, governance is now specialised and the government lacks experts and expertise. Third, there is insensitivity, which is reflected in the apathy among those government employees who feel that there's no need to help people as long as they're getting salaries on time or have permanent jobs," he said.

Kejriwal further said that while the bigger parties are focusing only on politics, he wants to engage with the people.

Today, a day in the life of Arvind Kejriwal begins at the janata samvad. His next stop is the office of the chief minister at the Delhi Secretariat, where meetings go on all afternoon. Meetings with the Lieutenant Governor happen every other day and visits to constituencies like Bawana, Narela, Azadpur and Najhafgarh have also taken place in the last two weeks. Every Sunday, between 10 am and 2 pm, he visits his constituency of New Delhi.

When an aam aadmi steps inside the system, he can either still burn time by being mad at it or seek to change it. Seems, Kejriwal has shifted gear to the latter for now.

Updated Date: Aug 05, 2017 15:46 PM

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