It is a part of Delhi where the OB vans never go. Even walking is a challenge because the narrow road is chock-a-block with rickshaws, horse carts, scooters, people and vendors occupying every inch of the footpath. But since March 23, this particular corner of Delhi, called Sunder Nagri, has undergone a symbolic makeover.
This is the place where Arvind Kejriwal, convener of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), chose to go on a fast to protest the hike in water and power tariffs in Delhi and urge people to stop paying their inflated bills. The narrow road turned into a political battleground for the AAP. But there were no elaborate security arrangements, big speeches or huge rallies. People went about their routine lives, and Kejriwal continued his fast in a nondescript house. Initially, nobody paid much attention, but as the days progressed and he started looking weak, people began to take note. By the 13th day, people started lining up just to see Kejriwal. Asked why they were going to see the man, a woman named Salma said “Aajkal kaun neta hamare jaise logon ke liye apni jaan deta hai. Yeh kar reha hai to jaroor kuchh alag hoga” (Which political leader gives his life for people like us. If he is doing it, he must be different from others).
He ended his fast on April 6, the 15th day. On that day the AAP started another civil disobedience movement by reconnecting the power connections of those whose connections had been cut for not paying their bills in response to the AAP’s call. So far, a few connections have been restored with no news of any cases being lodged against anyone.
“This is exactly what we are trying to do. We are trying to convince people that they need not fear the government; they need not fear action and if they collectively stand up against injustice, the government will not be able to do anything against them,” said Manish Sisodia of the AAP.
But what next? How does one convert sympathy for a fasting man to votes and how does one convince people that they should vote for a party which has a skeletal organisational structure and which has not made its views known on many other serious issues? “This is our challenge. We are here to change the way politics is viewed and practised in this country. We have to convince people that politics is not for the good of a handful of leaders but for the good of people at large who have had no say in the way governance is administered in the country today,” said Kejriwal.
Prashant Bhushan, the noted lawyer and an AAP member, says much will depend on the outcome of the Delhi elections which are due in November. “We hope to contest the Delhi elections, and hopefully, that will energise things in the rest of the country,” he said.
Purnima S. Tripathi