For three gruelling days, AAP leader touched almost every constituency in his home State
Dusk is setting in when Arvind Kejriwal reaches Nilokheri in the Karnal Lok Sabha constituency on Saturday, Day 2 of his three-day roadshow in Haryana. He gets an enthusiastic reception, just as his cavalcade clogged up Karnal’s Committee Chowk a little earlier where the entire bazaar had for a few minutes become a sea of AAP caps and waving brooms.
Rajesh and a couple of young men who have gathered to watch the show speak up. He began like the hero of the film Nayak in which Anil Kapoor becomes Chief Minister for a day. Unfortunately, he could not live up to that expectation and has lost the advantage the party had gained in Haryana at that time. If he had not surrendered his government in Delhi, the AAP would have won handsomely, they say.
When the AAP chose Rohtak in Haryana’s heartland to launch its national campaign in February, the grand show created a stir in the State’s polity. Since then, the party has struggled to find suitable candidates, many of whom do not have more than a couple of lakhs to spend on their campaigns. Add to that the State electoral machinery which somehow took photographs of media vehicles accompanying his cavalcade to add to the expenditure. In caste-conscious Haryana, the party’s aversion to play the caste card is taking its toll. But as the new kid on the block, the AAP has its share of admirers.
On Saturday, people of the Kalayat-Kurukshetra belt in Haryana were treated to two roadshows. Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda held one for Naveen Jindal, industrialist who is seeking re-election from the Kurukshetra constituency and a couple of hours later Mr. Kejriwal drove on the same route. The contrast was stark and telling.
At Kalayat, the official machinery with scores of vehicles around a makeshift helipad outnumbered the sullen, scanty, crowd waiting to hear Mr. Hooda. A few miles up the road towards Narwana where Mr. Kejriwal’s noisy, chaotic road show trundled, groups of people waited patiently at several places with wilting marigold garlands. A Tata Nano with a loudspeaker led the way, announcing Mr. Kejriwal’s arrival as it zipped in and out of the usual Saturday morning traffic on the busy State Highway. As against Mr. Hooda’s grand “Vijay Rath,” the AAP roadshow with Mr. Kejriwal standing in an old open jeep was spartan.
But the big crowds who turned out to hear and see him more than made up for the party’s obvious lack of funds. For three gruelling days, Mr. Kejriwal touched almost every constituency in his home State, which is one of the few where the AAP is hoping to do well.
At Batta village, there is a scramble for AAP caps. But Jagbir, a farmer who stopped his tractor on the way to the market to listen to Kejriwal, says: “Half the people are just curious to see this new political entrant. He still has a long way to go but I think he will give a good ‘takkar’ to the established parties.”
Mr. Kejriwal himself concentrates on the land deals of Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law, Robert Vadra, and BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s “anti-farmer policies in Gujarat” to strike a chord with the crowd. “When I exposed Mr. Vadra’s dubious land deals in Haryana, both the Indian National Lok Dal of Om Prakash Chautala and the BJP had the same papers; then why did they not say anything?”
“As for farmers in Gujarat, just like Mr. Hooda snatched your lands and gave it to Mr. Vadra and Mukesh Ambani at throwaway prices, Mr. Modi is doing the same to Gujarat farmers. There, he is giving their land to Ambanis and Adanis. So beware of these leaders. They are all the same.”