New Delhi: Madan Lal is known as the Kejriwal of Gandhi Nagar. The grey-haired middle-aged man was famous in his neighbourhood for plastering the streets of Gandhi Nagar in north Delhi with posters for Kejriwal during the 2013 Assembly elections.
But now he’s not even wearing an Aam Aadmi cap as a crowd waits at the street corner for Kejriwal and area nominee Rajmohan Gandhi to show up.
“If AAP had not left in the middle, I would have been pakka for Kejriwal,” he says. “He could not deal with the Delhi assembly. How will he manage to hold together 272 MPs? We want suraksha (security), electricity, water. We have the biggest market here and no public toilets. We want work not flyovers.”
Gandhi Nagar is one of Asia’s biggest markets for all ready made garments. Except undergarments. The streets are clogged with carts and cycle vans, even bullock carts sagging under the weight of bales of jeans and salwar suits. Signs for Calcutta and Ludhiana hosiery and mannequins line the streets. A mannequin in a flaming orange dress stands on a second floor balcony looking down at the bedlam below.
Yet the bustle has not made for security in its numbers. Women complain it’s unsafe. They have to bear the brunt of comments and rude gestures. Most women in the area do not work. Just the other day a woman got raped in broad daylight near the police station says Rekha, an AAP volunteer. “I want Kejriwal’s mahila samitis, I want schools for girls up to Class XII. We have nothing,” she says. When I ask what the main problems are here, Ashok Kumar, owner of a mobile shop, says “What problems don’t we have?”
Someone jokes the biggest problem is Sandeep Dikshit, the sitting MP.
Dikshit is noone’s favourite here. “I’ve never seen the fellow since elections,” says Kumar. “At least the Eid moon you see every year. Him you see once in five years and we have not seen him yet this year,” scoffs Sapna, an AAP organizer.
But right now Kejriwal and Gandhi are also missing in action. The stage is ready. The chairs with red padded seats have been unloaded from a truck. The garlands are ready. School children have been lined up. AAP volunteers are busy handing out caps and pamphlets to passing auto-rickshaws and cycle carts. Noon rolls into one and then to two with no sign of the duo. The slogans and chants which were coming thick and fast have dried up as people conserve their energy.
One man tucks his cap into his pocket saying it’s too hot and he’ll wear it when Kejriwal arrives. The children playing with jhadoos scamper into the shade. Volunteers hand out bananas as stomachs rumble.
People while away their time discussing the hypothetical. Suman Nanda says the 49-day government put the fear of god into police and government officials. She says when her electric meter burned down and she went to get it fixed she could feel the difference Kejriwal had made. Service was prompt. Everyone said "Kejriwal has come with a big stick." She wants Kejriwal to win in Varanasi to prove a point but come back to Delhi. But others disagree. Shyamal Roy who quit his call center job to work with AAP says it’s enough to install some genuine person in Delhi. Kejriwal can be wherever he likes because wherever he is, he will be against corruption.
But where is Arvind Kejriwal?
Eventually at 2:30 the Kejriwal road show finally reaches Gandhi Nagar. The street is galvanized into action. The garlands are fished out. The patriotic music pumped up. Kejriwal waves to the crowd but says nothing. Rajmohan Gandhi standing next to him, tall, grey-haired, and bespectacled, seems a little lost. The two get down and walk through the narrow lanes of Gandhi Nagar to a house for a late lunch.
Quickly the lane becomes jam-packed with supporters who have been waiting for hours and are anxious to hear their leader say something. Geeta, a middle aged housewife with an Aam Aadmi cap shows me her plastic bag with garlands she has brought for Kejriwal but has been unable to give him.
“It’s okay,” a volunteer reassures her. “Sometimes you just have to have darshan like in a temple. Poor man, he is hungry.”
“He is hungry but the public is hungry for him as well,” retorts Geeta. “At least in temple there is 100% darshan. What is this chasing him down these narrow lanes?”
Eventually Kejriwal emerges, does a namaste but still does not launch into his usual stump speech. Someone says he is unwell. As he takes off with the rather disappointed crowd in tow, Rajmohan Gandhi, the actual candidate emerges as well in his khadi kurta and sneakers.
“You know he is the Mahatma’s grandson,” says white-haired Nanku Ram Paswan reverentially. “And he is no outsider. He got married right here in Sahadra. Anyway if Modi-ji can leave Gujarat and come to Varanasi, why can Gandhi’s grandson not come to Gandhi-nagar?” Some worry as an older man he might not be up to the strain of the campaign. "Well, he's going to parliament, he's not going to wrestle," retorts Shyamal Roy. "Look at Advani," says another.
Two women on a scooter stare at Gandhi curiously as he stands on the side of the road waiting for his car to get through the snarled traffic.
“Is that the candidate?” one asks an AAP volunteer. On being told he is, she takes advantage of the jam to stop and take a photo on her phone.
“This is not about Rajmohan Gandhi who I am sure is a good man,” says Vaja Ram as we sit on the steps of the Jain ob/gyn clinic. “Nor is it about the BJP candidate Mahesh Giri though he is local and done good work. It’s about Narendra Modi and Arvind Kejriwal. And that’s that.”
Ram had gone to Jantar Mantar for the first anti-corruption rally. “I had great hopes for Kejriwal,” he says. “But now I am not sure. Forget the Jan Lokpal. Was there not more work to be done in Delhi? Just look around you.”
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Updated Date: Apr 03, 2014 18:39:46 IST