A crowd of shoppers thronged the Karol Bagh market on a busy Tuesday to watch six college students, whose T-shirts read “MCD mein bhi Kejriwal” and caps “AAP”, equipped with couple of microphones and portable speakers.
Beating a dafli (handheld drum), one of them shouts, “ Natak dekho, natak dekho, natak waale aa gaye, natak waale aa gaye [watch the play, the actors have come]” to begin the street play, as the other five repeat after him.
A woman actor says, “Brother, can I ask you something? We came here together, but why didn’t I have to buy the ticket, and you had to?” “That is because AAP has made travel for women free in buses across Delhi,” replies a male artist, as the others in the troupe applaud.
Campaigning for the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) elections, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is holding street plays, or nukkad natak, across the city, whose message combine the party’s work in the Delhi government — free bus services for women, free water and subsidised electricity — and its promises if it comes to power in the civic body — getting rid of the three landfills and paying salaries of MCD employees on time.
Before voting on Sunday, the party aims to hold these plays at several locations and take its message to the grassroots.
What these plays are missing, however, is AAP’s outreach to Hindu voters, such as its request for images of Ganesh and Lakshmi on currency notes or its promise to start modern gaushalas if it comes to power in the MCD.
After the free bus ride scene, the play in Karol Bagh moves on to show an old woman “suffering due to mountains of garbage”, i.e. the landfills.
“This time, vote for Kejriwal. He’ll end this. You just have to go to the polling booth on the 4th [December] and press on the button for jhadu [AAP’s election symbol],” another actor announces. The old woman replies, “I’ll do all this, but first take me to a mohalla clinic.”
Paromila Pandit, 21, who played the old woman in the nukkad natak, says her troupe was hired by the party. “I go to college every day by bus and it’s free. I end up saving a lot of money,” she says. “I will vote for Kejriwal.”
Among the play’s audience was 65-year-old Mehraval Singh, a security guard. “ Takkar toh hoga Modi aur Kejriwal ka (There will be a tough fight between Kejriwal and Modi). Some people like Kejriwal while others like Modi. Let’s see what happens,” he says.