A few local residents peeping in time and again, a couple of cops deployed for security and a group of rank supporters made up the small crowd that had gathered at the site of the indefinite fast by Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal in east Delhi on Sunday.
Contrary to expectations, the crowd dwindled despite it being a holiday. The participation was much better on Saturday, day one of Kejriwal’s fast against inflated power bills at the narrow lane in the Murga Market area of Sundar Nagri.
“On Saturday, this little lane was swarming with people. Today it’s not that much and the madness is under control,” a trader, whose shop is very close to the protest site, said.
Around 4.30 in the afternoon, as Kejriwal came out and sat on the dias, a small crowd of over 100 people, mostly AAP activists, gathered there. “I’m fit and fine. A doctor is here with me. Some people came to me and asked why am I sitting inside? If I sit out all day, all the activists and officials will sit here only and won’t go out and get people to join the cause. I also need to conserve energy,” the AAP leader, who sported a white kurta pyjama, said.
Kejriwal — who according to party officials is just having water — said he will come out and speak to the gathering every day at 4pm.
His party officials, however, are raring to go and are roping in more and more people. “On the first day of Kejriwal’s fast, 36,743 residents of the city had challenged Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit, saying they will no longer pay the illegitimately high electricity and water charges. They have joined the Aam Aadmi Party’s civil disobedience and have boldly given in writing they will no longer pay these bills,” a party official claimed.
He also said that they were expecting similar number of people to join the campaign on day two as well.
“When the number reaches a lakh, we will knock on the government’s door and ask them direct questions,” another AAP official said.
According to him, members of the party are protesting in 264 wards across Delhi through a door-to-door campaign, asking people not to pay “inflated” electricity and water bills and sign the protest letter. “The price of electricity and water have gone up in Delhi only because of corruption,” he said.
Launching his fast on Saturday, Kejriwal said, “In order to take the fear out of the minds and hearts of the people and to unite them, I am sitting on an indefinite fast. This time, we are not demanding anything from the government. My appeal is directly to the people of Delhi.”