As Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal returned to Deoli constituency for the first time since the bitter experience of 2014, he received vocal support from locals who said there had been a visible change in the area’s ‘bijli-paani’ situation.
In December 2014, when Kejriwal visited the constituency to address a public rally ahead of Assembly polls, a teenager from the locality had hurled a stone at him. Kejriwal was unhurt and had tweeted wishing the boy well. More than two years later, as Kejriwal went to address the same residents, Tigri village and the neighbouring slum areas came out to give him a patient hearing.
Even though a group of young boys exited the venue after his 25-minute public address raising pro-Modi slogans, older residents of the area backed Kejriwal for “changing their lives”.
“Only the ungrateful will not vote for Kejriwal. Uska paani pee ke kisi aur ko vote kaise daal sakta koi? Two years ago, there was no piped water in my locality. We had to pay for tankers. Today there is regular water supply. Just because he has made water free, some people do not value it and waste it by washing their cars. The government should ensure meters are installed everywhere,” said Rehanna Bano, who lives in a slum near Tigri Extension and had rushed to the venue to catch Kejriwal’s speech after rustling up dinner for her sons. “I missed it by a few minutes. I really wanted to see the man who changed our lives.”
Her neighbour, Eshwari Devi, chimed in, “I also reached late but managed to hear him. Bijli-paani mein itna kaam pehle kabhi nahi hua. Hamari zindagi badal gayi hai. But these days votes are won by throwing cash and not by good work.”
Eshwari’s support came as Kejriwal wrapped up his speech, reiterating his concerns about vulnerability of electronic voting machines (EVMs). “Woh 5 se 7 percent votes idhar udhar kar sakte hain. Itni vote daalna ki EVM ko bhi fail kar de. (They can bungle 5-7 per cent votes. Support us with such a majority that the EVMs cannot be compromised),” Kejriwal said before promising, “Ek saal mein Delhi chamka ke dikha dunga.”
Sticking to the script, Kejriwal ran over the achievements of his two-year government, listing out the difference in power tariff between Delhi and other state capitals.
He pointed out instances of “witch-hunt” of his Cabinet ministers and the alleged non-cooperation of the three municipal bodies over the past two years.
“After I brought down the power tariffs, these powerful owners of power companies, the Ambanis and Adanis, have all gotten after me. They are conspiring with the BJP and I have got to know that if BJP or Congress come to power, they will take away power and water department from Delhi government and make it a part of MCD like it used to be before 1998. Then I will be able to do nothing,” Kejriwal claimed as residents watched him speak from balconies, terraces and out of windows.
“Last year the CBI conducted raids on me. For two days they kept hunting but got nothing except four mufflers,” he said.
Dominated by migrants, mostly from the Scheduled Castes, Deoli has been one of the most water-deficient residential colonies in south Delhi. From less than 10 per cent piped water supply, it has seen a gradual coverage of over 50 per cent of the area over the past year.
Deoli MLA Prakash Jarwal, who lives in Tigri Extension, holds sway over the locals, largely because of his accessibility in the area.
“I live very close to his house and see him around often. He works hard for locals and is very accessible. He has lived up to our expectations,” said Sadhna Bairwa, a resident.