Former Delhi chief minister and the national convener of Aam Admi Party (AAP) Arvind Kejriwal's three-day tour in support of his party's candidates in Haryana ended abruptly on Sunday due to his poor health.
Trailing the leader in Kaithal district on Saturday, the Hindustan Times team saw that Kejriwal was being given an overwhelming reception by the AAP activists en route Karnal and Kurukshetra. Supporters offered the 'team Kejriwal' fruits and packaged water.
However, the tour failed to impress the locals as the AAP leader addressed a thin crowd in Karnal city for less than five minutes.
The AAP leader's speeches lacked 'sharpness' and Haryana-specific issues did not find any mention. He instead targeted the BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda for giving cultivable land to Ambanis, Adanis and Robert Vadra.
At Kaithal, which is part of Kurukshetra parliamentary constituency, he chose to make only passing reference to the Congress candidate Naveen Jindal, who is named as one of the accused in the alleged multi-crore coal mining scam.
Similarly, in Kurukshetra city on Saturday evening, he said only a few words in praise of its candidate Balwinder Kaur from an open jeep and the convoy moved on with his slogan-raising brigade.
People in all these areas were unhappy as the leader did not raise issues concerning the state. "We hoped some fiery speeches on corruption cases against the nominees of the Congress and the INLD and development plans to give a boost to AAP candidates. But I feel disappointed over the symbolic show," said Padamjit Kamboj, Kurukshetra resident, who stayed till 8.30 pm to listen to Kejriwal.
Earlier in the day, after attending public meetings at Kaithal district, Kejriwal reached Nissing, a small town about 30 km from Karnal, at around 4 pm, about four hours behind schedule, and paid obeisance at a gurdwara at this Sikh-dominating town of Karnal parliamentary segment.
The narrow Karnal-Kaithal road witnessed traffic jam for 30 minutes as Kejriwal chose to address the gathering on the road. Standing on the seat of his jeep, the leader was guarded by volunteers and officials of Haryana Police, who were in uniform as well as in plain clothes.
Like his speech in Kaithal, Kejriwal used the same words, hitting at Modi and Hooda at Nissing and Karnal.
"Modi Ji called me AK 49, a Pakistani agent. It is not expected from a chief minister," he quipped.
In an attempt to establish a contact with the crowd, Kejriwal and members of his core team raised slogans but the crowd, including those wearing AAP caps, didn't join them.
Taking note of the shopkeepers and other onlookers at rooftops, Kejriwal said that the BJP was favouring FDI in retail business whereas he had banned it in Delhi in the interest of the common man.
He said that AAP's performance was a "God's miracle" which would be strengthened in the ongoing Lok Sabha polls.
Kejriwal, who often accuses media of biased against AAP, talked of his major achievement in exposing the alleged natural gas pricing scam 'through the media'.
"Aap logon ne TV pe dekha hoga ke hum logon ne kaise Ambani ka parda faash kiya tha. Congress ya BJP wale hamesha chup rahe the is mudde pe," he said at Nissing.
On reaching Karnal, he was greeted by AAP activists and he offered prayers at a religious function.
In his brief address at Committee Chowk, he urged voters to vote for party candidate Paramjeet Singh.
After crossing through some of the most congested localities at Hansi Chowk, Sadar Bazar, Committee Chowk and Hospital Chowk, AAP's convoy adversely affected the traffic movement.
On the way to Kurukshetra, there was no one to greet AAP at Taraori town whereas a few supporters were present at Nilokheri town of Karnal, located on the NH-1.
At Kurukshetra, a number of supporters welcomed the AAP team, which stopped barely for two minutes near the grain market. Here also, the cavalcade went through the congested commercial areas and left for Yamunanagar to canvass for its candidate from Ambala constituency SP Singh.
The team reached Yamunanagar at around 9 pm and later reached Ambala at around 11 pm.
Scheduled programmes at Shahbad (Kurukshetra), Panipat and Sonepat were cancelled pertaining to the health issues of Kejriwal.
Unlike most politicians, the entire convoy of Arvind Kejriwal comprised nearly 10 vehicles, which duly entered through the regular lane and paid toll tax near Nilokheri. His team members asked the accompanying members through a public address system fitted in one of the cars to ensure paying two-way ticket from their own pockets.
Contrary to his public statements of not accepting security, policemen were seen clinging on to his open jeep. His team members were seen allowing the cops in plain clothes to ensure a security ring around the vehicle carrying Kejriwal.
People with red ribbons tagged to their caps and shirts meant they were part of the safety ring.
Kejriwal maintained a safe distance from the media. As he did not respond to the media queries, his close aide and the party's chief spokesman Rajeev Godara told this reporter that due to the heavy security, no one, including him (Godara) was allowed to come near Kejriwal. "Moreover, Kejriwal is travelling in open jeep and he does not like to be interviewed in this manner," said Godara.