I don’t like “Road Show”. The cities already face traffic hazards, pollution and people almost daily spend lot of time on the road. In this situation when a political leader is on the “Road Show”, common people have to suffer more. I feel that if people want to demonstrate how much support they have – they better walk; at most they should use bicycle for such exhibition. Of course, nobody is bothered about my opinion, political leaders are certainly not!
Even then when I heard that Mr. Kejariwal is participating in a Road Show in Mumbai on 12th March, I decided to participate in it. I was not looking forward to “see” him or to “listen” to him. During India against Corruption days, I have seen him and listened to him at Jantar Mantar and at Ramaleela Maidan. Media might make fun of the movement as “candle sect”; but I have inspirational memories of participation of common people in that movement. Since then I have been following Aaam Adami Party (AAP) – its establishment, its strategy for Delhi Assembly elections and so on. However I don’t believe that Mr. Kejariwal is always right. I don’t worship individuals and consequently I am incapable of hating individuals.
I was going to Mumbai as I wanted to know what Mumbaikars were expecting from AAP; what were people thinking about the last four months of AAP; how were people interpreting AAP’s chances and so on. Generally media makes us blind; here was an opportunity to understand AAP and Mumbai relationship without the intervention of Media. Medhatai Patkar is contesting from North East Mumbai – I intended to know about the response she is getting.
According to media, Mr. Kejariwal (now onwards I will call him AK) was to reach Mumbai airport at 10.15 in the morning. He was to reach Andheri station by an auto rickshaw; then he was to travel to Church gate by local train. I thought this plan a little “dramatic” – I had felt so during Mr. Rahul Gandhi’s local travel train and I would feel the same for any politician’s plan of “traveling by local train in Mumbai.” The supporters ask, “The problems are of daily nature, what if people face it for another couple of hours? Why blame us?” I find such arguments funny and irritating. We don’t have to personally experience the problems (like commuting by local train) which are well known for years. Secondly, if we can’t resolve the issue, we should take care that we at least don’t add the burden on the already collapsing system. I was dismayed to see that the game that other political parties play is also being played by AK.
At 2.00 in the noon, AK was to start his rally from August Kranti Maidan. So, we reached Mumbai Central Station. One of our friends had booked taxi for us. I asked the driver “has the AK rally started?” He informed us that there was some kind of rioting at Church gate station. I was concerned about it. But as the discussion went on, I was informed that the security entry-exit doors at the station were collapsed due to overcrowding. Ok, that was not so serious. I mean the metal doors are not really that strong. Also, I have seen many passengers at Mumbai Central station entering and exiting the stations by the sides of such doors - so the security doors at times are just symbolic. This is not to justify the behavior of AAP supporters. But the media accusation that AAP supporters deliberately destroyed metal security doors was bit overstretched.
AK was to talk to press for 10 minutes at August Kranti Maidan. But when we reached near the place, the rally had already moved on. I don’t know what AK spoke to the press, or whether he spoke or not. Next day, I did not even try to find out about it.
The rally route was from Nagpada Junction to Khilafat house. Due to traffic jam, we were unable to progress; so we asked the taxi driver to directly reach at Khilafat house and we (there were three friends with me) followed the rally. From the traffic jam, the direction of the rally (I am alternatively using the words ‘Rally’ and ‘Road Show’) and after 10-15 minutes the tail of the rally was visible – the AAP caps.
Police were managing the rally by holding a long rope at the both the sides. The supporters were expected walk in between these ropes, but people were coming out of it and going into it easily. This is the usual methodology of the police. AK was seen in an open green jeep.
AK was accompanied by Ms. Medha Patkar, Ms. Meera Sannyal and Mr. Mayank Gandhi – the three AAP candidates in Mumbai. There was crowd surrounding the vehicle; some people were engaged in shake hand with the leaders and some were engaged in chanting slogans. Many supporters were accompanying on two wheelers; some were walking with banners. AAP cap holders were seen in taking a break and sipping tea and having refreshments – after the break they were joining the proceedings.
Mumbai was not as humid and hot as it generally is. Many people were standing on the road and AAP volunteers were distributing pamphlets to them. Some had come out of their shops and some were just waiting to cross the road. One AAP volunteer was distributing AAP caps, I too was offered one. I took it but kept it in my bag. Some volunteers were walking with Jhadoo (AAP symbol broom).
The police presence was strong – number of women police was good. I don’t like it when people use police force for such rally and road show; according to me it is waste and misuse of police force; they have many other tasks waiting for their time and efficiency. But can’t help. From the end of the rally to AK’s vehicle there were about 350-400 people. There might be more people in the front I thought and moved forward. However, except for few volunteers accompanying the ‘announcement vehicle’ there was no crowd at all. I realized that the rally route was planned in the Muslim majority area. If this is what AAP thinks, then this is also a kind of game that all political parties of are playing for years. Why do AAP need to play the card of religion? If AAP is here to change the system (as it claims), how it can change the system by following all the rules of the existing system? – Such questions kept on coming to me during the whole day.
Lot of people were watching the rally from their residence balconies. One of the volunteers said to me, “Since AK has challenged Modi by going into his den (Gujarat); Muslims of Mumbai will definitely support AAP.” I smiled and moved on. He may not be knowing but I know that people are curious when there is some movement on the road – it might be Ganesh festival rally, may be death may be marriage procession. At various corners people were overtly irritated by the traffic jam there were facing as the police was stopping vehicle – which was understandable.
The rally stopped somewhere. Somebody said, “AK is talking to the gathering.” However next day I read the reports that there was some confrontation between AAP volunteers and Congress cadre. I don’t know what exactly happened.
Within half an hour I realized that rally had number of supporters but also number of onlookers. The onlookers were only curious to “see” AK – wondering about who is this guy who is being talked about so much! From their presence it was hard to conclude anything about what they felt about AAP. Their faces were clueless; they did not provide any information to me.
When we reached Khilafat House, it was crowded and the gates were closed. I had assumed (why did I assume I don’t know) that AK will address the rally here. But nobody was allowed to enter. Someone informed that only 20 people have been allowed to go inside. People had walked about four kilometers – without even having a word with AK or their candidate. AAP volunteers were busy with providing drinking water.
The nature of our democracy is still a feudal one – one understand this by participating in such road show and rally. I have never understood why people want to “see” the leaders. I mean in pre-television ear “seeing your leader” made a sense –but now we watch them round the clock and still we want to “see” – that is surprising. Secondly during such events, there is no dialogue between the leader and his/her cadre. Earlier the King and the Queen used to travel in a palanquin and people used to bow. Now the leaders travel in a decorated vehicle and people shake hands or shout slogan. So, the form of the relationship only has changed, the relationship remains the same! What AAP achieved by organizing such rally – I was unable to understand.
At Khilafat house we regrouped, the taxi has arrived and was waiting for us in front of Bhayakhala police station. We started for North East Mumbai. From 5.30 onwards AK was to be North East Mumbai. We had seen the response of people in Central and South Central Mumbai so far – would be it different in North East Mumbai? We wanted to experience that and left for Mankhurd.
To be continued ..