It’s tyres replaced, a brand new battery and an engine control module finally in place, the Aam Aadmi Party’s Wagon R, which was stolen earlier this month, is ready to hit the road after beating a severe fund crunch. Vandana Singh, a mid-rung AAP leader who was using the car before it was stolen, calls it “jugaad”, that particularly north Indian term to denote innovative, quick-fix solutions.
The battery and two tyres (the other two are workable) have been sponsored by AAP volunteers, while the engine control module has been purchased by Singh. Dents, scratches and all, the humble blue hatchback is more than just a set of wheels for Delhi’s ruling party and has enormous sentimental value, say party workers.
The car was stolen from right outside the Delhi Secretariat on October 12 and found in Ghaziabad two days later. The robbers had removed its battery, replaced the tyres with old worn out ones and even changed the spare. “The IP Estate police station handed over the car to us on October 16. But we realised that its battery was stolen and tyres replaced. We had to tow the car using another vehicle from the party office,” said Singh.
Then began the task of starting the car. Shortage of funds proved to be major hurdle, she said. Till the “jugaad” happened, it rested inside the premises of the party office at Rouse Avenue. “Kuch jugaad kar diya hain (we have made some arrangement),” Singh said with a sense of satisfaction. She described the two days after losing the car as amongst the most miserable in her life. Reproachful eyes of party workers conveyed that losing the car was an “unforgivable mistake”, she said.
“I must have got at least 100 calls the day I lost the car,” she said. However, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tried to cheer her up, Singh added. Gifted by a party volunteer in January 2013, the blue Wagon R helped in crystallising Kejriwal’s status as an “aam aadmi” with a people connect. He used it till the 2015 assembly election.
The car has seen it all — Kejriwal’s ascension to power in 2013, his downfall in 2014 and again his rise in 2015. Quick to realise that the car itself had become a talking point and was synced with his ‘aam aadmi’ image, Kejriwal chose to use the Wagon R even after becoming chief minister the first time in 2013. Photographs of Kejriwal sitting next to the driver did the rounds of newspaper and social media pages, as much a part of his persona as the muffler or the wide-collared shirt and sweater. He also slept in it during a protest outside Rail Bhavan after he became chief minister in the winter of 2013. Associated with its “andolan” days, the car also carries a lot of emotional value for its volunteers.
AAP’s Haryana unit convenor Naveen Jaihind borrowed the “lucky” car from Kejriwal when he was contesting the 2014 Lok Sabha polls from Rohtak. He lost the election but his affection for the car remained — he announced a prize to anyone who helped get back the car. “The blue Wagon-R is more than a car to us. That is why it was important for us to have it running,” Singh said.