Every roof and balcony had two policemen each looking down at the small clearing of close to 200 people. One carried a flashlight, constantly searching the crowd for any signs of weapons, or mischief. The other stood impassive, his eyes wandering, a rifle to his side.
At 8 pm, there was a sudden flurry of activity, the crowd stood as one. More personnel encircled a makeshift dais in the centre, armed to the teeth. The security spoke both of the venue and the individual. And the man that announced her arrival recognised the significance. “Dekhiye, aayi hai humaari beech Trilokpuri mein humari didi, jo aap sabne ab tak news pe dekha hai. Aayi hai mantriji Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti humaare beech (See, the person who has come to our midst in Trilokpuri is one you have seen on the news. Minister Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti has come),” he shouted, as the crowd applauded.
One week after she drew flak for saying that the Delhi assembly elections were between “Ramzaadon” and “haramzaadon”, facing the Minister of State for Food Processing was a row of TV cameras waiting for another indiscretion.
But for ten minutes before she got up to speak, the Sadhvi sat impassive, giving nothing away. She wore a saffron sari, and a cream sweater. On each hand were two rings and a golden watch, and across her neck were three necklaces. Her arms were folded, and one man quietly slipped a piece of white paper to her, with names of local leaders she would highlight before she spoke. On her forehead was a red and white tika.
At 8.15 pm she rose, conscious of the waiting media. And constantly, with an eye on those lying in wait for a slip, she mocked them. On seven occasions, in two speeches, at two different Jan Sabhas, Jyoti said, “Logon ko bura lagta hai (people may take offence)”. Each time, she smiled. And each time, the crowd laughed with her.
At both sabhas, Jyoti ended by singing bhajans, and in both places she poked fun at the outrage caused by her comments. “I won’t say much, some people take offence. I don’t need to say much. The intelligent only need a hint to understand. The elections are coming. We have to win, do we not? Close your fist… when you have to face someone… you need a fist. I’ll now sing a bhajan… people should not take offence,” she said at New Ashok Nagar.
One hour earlier, at Trilokpuri, her “allergy to the panja (palm)” had been mentioned, but she had asked the crowd to “make a Bajrangbali ki mutthi (the fist of Hanuman)”, before shouting “Bharat Mata ki Jai”.
Far from the language she used last week, Jyoti this time spoke only of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and compared him to both a “party that ruled for 60 years” and a “49-day sarkar.”
But in a 20-minute speech at Trilokpuri, and another 15-minute one at another Jan Sabha in New Ashok Nagar, she named the Congress only once. “I won’t take anyone’s name. It causes a lot of worry to some people. Some people here may take offence,” she said, with a wide smile on her face, the crowd laughing with her.
At one point during her address in New Ashok Nagar, Jyoti spoke of inclusion and said that “gareebi” does not differentiate between Hindus, Muslims and Christians.
In Trilokpuri though, not once did the controversial Minister speak of the riots that had taken place a few metres away from where she spoke. And when she did, she caused a flutter among the crowd, calling Trilokpuri a “grameen kshetra (rural area).”
“I know this is a rural area, but is this a part of Delhi or not. When I was coming here, I thought I was in Fatehpur,” she said. It was the one time she lost the crowd for a minute, with some in the crowd whispering, “Do we look rural to her?”
But three minutes later, she had them laughing again, her arms outstretched, pointing at the cameras below. “Now let me sing. Let the mediapersons too get something today,” she said.