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Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party: The spoiler among the masses

Aam Aadmi Party looks in the absence of enough popular faces of its own.

Written by D K Singh | New Delhi | Published: December 4, 2013 4:35:24 am

Though it has been projecting Arvind Kejriwal as the chief minister-designate who would “cleanse the system”,the Aam Aadmi Party looks set to end up a mere “spoiler” in Delhi,one that can at best bring about a change of guard.

Apart from Seemapuri,Bawana,Patparganj,New Delhi and a couple of other constituencies,the AAP seems to have emerged the “swing factor” in most seats. And it is among the Congress’s traditional voters — jhuggi-dwellers and Valmikis — where it appears to have created an impression.

The Sheila Dikshit government’s decision to regularise 895 unauthorised colonies with the promise of adding more to the list after the polls was meant to strengthen the Congress’s hold on its traditional vote banks. But the AAP’s populist,if tall,promises such as halving electricity bills and making water supply free up to 700 litres seem to have caught the fancy of jhuggi-dwellers.

At Sundarnagari in Seemapuri,where Kejriwal’s NGO “Parivartan” has been active for years,everybody from Shankarlal ‘Reriwalla’ to tailor Inder Mohan has a grievance against the Congress regime — food inflation,corruption,open sewers,power outages,inflated bills. “We have been electing (Congress MLA Veer Singh) Dhingan for 15 years but nothing has changed. It’s time we tried a new party,” says Mohan,citing the promises of “no power bill” and free water. Asked whether he believes the AAP can deliver when others didn’t,he says,“Kejriwal is at least saying it; others are not even talking about it.”At JJ Colony in Bawana,people have similar complaints.

Even Valmikis appear to be shifting their traditional loyalty from the Congress and the BSP to the AAP. Leanings do not always convert into votes but if they do,it would be advantage BJP because the AAP,in the absence of popular faces in candidates-centric elections,can only make a dent in the Congress bank.

“While everybody talks of the AAP here (JJ Colony in Bawana,with 29,000 voters),the main fight will be between the Congress and the BJP,” says Suresh Kumar,a retailer. “The AAP cannot even think of matching them.”

While the extent of the AAP’s impact on the Congress’s fortunes will be key,the BJP cannot revel in its principal rival’s discomfort either,for the AAP’s presence is growing among the middle classes too. At Vinodnagar in Patparganj, from where the AAP’s Manish Sisodia is contesting,stationery shop owner R B Singh and retired government officials H S Negi Bhagat Singh are all rooting for the AAP because of the contempt they have for the “corrupt system”.

The one comfort for Congress MLA Anil Choudhury is that both Singhs and Negi,who want “change” so desperately,had already voted for the BJP in the last election. Chand Mohammad of Sewa Telecom,located next to the AAP office in Vinod Nagar,says,“Anil Choudhury has worked hard in the area. Look at the park in front or the revamped school building to the right. The fact is the AAP,the Congress and the BJP all have an equal chance.”

For all its damage potential,the AAP hasn’t much to show in terms of its potential presence in the next Delhi assembly. Sample some of its candidates: a former Delhi police constable in Krishna Nagar who quit his job during Anna Hazare movement; a TV journalist in Mangolpuri whose father left the Congress during the Anna movement; an RTI activist in Rohini; Bheem of the serial Mahabharat in Wazeerpur; a sportsman and sweetshop owner in Matiala; a former commando in Delhi Cantt. who had taken part in 26/11 anti-terror operations and in Operation Parakram; a wrestling teacher in Chhatarpur; a property dealer (class X) who claims to be a “member of the International Human Rights Commission” in Kondli; a civil service aspirant in Mustafabad. While they do bring freshness to the fray,as individuals they are overshadowed by better-known rivals in a localised contest in which people are known not to bet on dark horses.

In Bawana,while people have diverse views about Guggan Singh (BJP) and MLA Kumar,till Monday they were talking about Gajanand as the AAP candidate in the area,unaware that the AAP had replaced him with Manoj five days ago following the rejection of Gajanand’s papers by the returning officer.

In Shahdara,the buzz is about how Narendra Modi’s aggressive campaigning could spoil the chances of BJP candidate Jitendra Singh Shanti who runs Shahid Bhagat Singh Seva Dal. “Only yesterday,some friends needed four bottles of blood for a surgery,” says Irshal Ali. “I called up Shanti and he immediately arranged it. He is so popular here. But for Modi,Shanti would have won easily.” He adds three-term Congress MLA Narendra Nath too has “done a good job”. And he could not remember the name of the AAP candidate — Balbir Singh,a shift-in-charge with BSES Yamuna Power Ltd.

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