AAM Aadmi Party (AAP) national convenor Arvind Kejriwal’s first election rally, which covered nearly a kilometre, led to two-hour long traffic jams across various important stretches in the western, central and southern parts of the city.
Wednesday’s road show, that began from AAP’s candidate Meera Sanyal’s Mumbai-South constituency, started at 10.30 am soon after Kejriwal landed at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport. The leader took an auto-rickshaw to Andheri railway station followed by media vehicles and AAP supporters on motorcycles and autorickshaws. Traffic police officers stationed outside the airport and Andheri station said that more than six supporters were seen travelling in each autorickshaw.
The traffic police struggled to manage the situation which led to chaos, with only three auto rickshaws booked for taking excess passengers and fined Rs 500 each. Although 200 police personnel were deployed and more than 1,000 Aam Aadmi Party volunteers were present, the traffic situation spiralled out of control.
“We will submit a report on the matter and also take action against the errant auto drivers. We will submit our report against them to the Road Transport Office,” said Pratap Dighavkar, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Traffic).
During the entire two-hour period of the rally that started at Nana Chowkat 2.30 pm traffic was, for most of the time, at a standstill or moving at a snail’s pace, said traffic police.
From Nana Chowk the rally crawled through low level bridges, Pannalal Terrace area, Maulana Shaukat Ali road then took a left turn to Maulana Azad road, passed through Nagpada junction, Clare road and finally entered the Seth Moti Shah lane before stopping at Khilafat house in south Mumbai.
A biker stuck on Maulana Shaukat Ali road said, “I normally take around five minutes to go from Grant Road signal to Chowpaati but today I have been stuck on this road for the last 45 minutes.”
Another commuter who was getting late to go to office said, “If these parties want to take out rallies, they should do it in public grounds instead of roads. Today is a working day and in the afternoon most of us need to commute to go to various places.” He claimed he was stuck for over hour at Nagpada junction.
A police constable who was posted for the rally duty said, “The rally is not just a head-ache for the commuters but also for us since everyone starts shouting at us for the traffic problems.” A lot of commuters in taxis were seen leaving the vehicle and walking down to their destination. Few school buses were also seen stuck in between the traffic jam.
The police had to detain a bunch of women when they tried to disrupt the rally as it passed through Nagpada. “We wanted to voice our opinion against AAP candidate Kumar Vishwas’ anti-Islamic statements. The police behaved badly with us. All we wanted to do is make our grievances known,” said one of the women.