With the anganwadi protest entering its 45th day, a parallel assembly was held outside Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s house. The protesters declared that “anganwadi workers residing in Bawana, along with their family members, will boycott the Aam Aadmi Party in the coming by-elections on August 23”. The protest, demanding higher honorarium, saw workers and helpers from across the capital, along with Delhi State Anganwadi Workers’ and Helpers’ Union (DSAWHU), march upto the Vidhan Sabha, on the last day of the Monsoon session of the Assembly.
The decision to “boycott” the Bawana bypolls was one of five resolutions passed by the protesters. Reacting to the decision, AAP spokesperson Saurabh Bhardwaj said, “In July, almost a week before the announcement of elections, the AAP government had passed the cabinet decision. Whatever the elected government could do, it did. It went to the L-G. However, officers and the L-G delayed it and now it can be notified only after the Bawana polls. The Anganwadi workers do understand it. But a few politically motivated people are trying to manipulate the situation.”
The bypoll in Bawana was necessitated after AAP legislator Ved Parkash quit the Delhi Assembly just ahead of the municipal elections to join the BJP. For the AAP, which won the 2015 elections with a resounding majority, the polls are a chance to overturn their two electoral losses — in Punjab and the MCD elections.
In fact, before Delhi Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal had sent the Delhi cabinet’s decision to nearly double the honorarium of anganwadi workers and helpers to the Election Commission on August 4, an AAP source said, “The issue had featured prominently in our pre-poll strategy discussions. No other government had taken such a measure, or responded to the demands of the people so quickly. In an area like Bawana, where there is a mix of rural population and urban sprawls, these centres are key.”
Apart from this, the other four resolutions also revolve around withdrawing all kinds of support from the Arvind Kejriwal government, with statements such as “the anganwadi workers will boycott the AAP in the next Delhi Assembly elections of 2020” as well as “moving the Anti-Corruption Branch with evidence against the Kejriwal government”. “The women on strike will not back off if the government doesn’t change its anti-labour attitude,” said a DSAWHU member.
Aruna, 45, an anganwadi worker in Delhi, said, “We’ve had to resort to such strong measures to make our voice heard. Till our demands are met, we will protest and also withdraw support from the AAP. They don’t respect labourers, they don’t understand our importance. Humaari Bawana ki behenein nahi karenge samarthan AAP ka.”