A voter base that seems to have grown disenchanted over the past few months, autorickshaw drivers brought Delhi to its knees on Wednesday over unmet expectations from the Aam Aadmi Party government.
In both the assembly elections — 2013 and 2015 — autorickshaw drivers formed a strong base of supporters for the fledgling party. In a gratitude speech, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, had said that 50% of the credit of the party’s victory went to the support from the drivers. The party was also the first one to use autorickshaws to put up advertisements and during election campaigns.
It is now this very support base that seems to have turned against the party. Angry with the government over its City Taxi Scheme and the new guidelines issued for autos, auto unions said they felt betrayed.
Delhi Auto Rickshaw Sangh’s general secretary Rajender Soni said that the Delhi government’s move will snatch the livelihoods of several auto and taxi drivers.
“We had mobilized over 40,000 drivers to vote for the AAP and now that they have formed the government they are cheating us. We will organize a similar strike next week till the government agrees with our demands,” Soni said.
The auto rickshaw unions claimed that with the introduction of the City Taxi Scheme small cars will be allowed to ply on the roads of Delhi which is likely to eat up their employment. The drivers were also against the lowering of minimum charges and checking of autos against overcharging.
The party, however, said that dialogue was on to solve drivers’ problems. “Some of their grievances have already been met. The government is working on several other projects to reform the transport sector. Gradually, all of their genuine demands will be met,” said an AAP spokesperson.
The party denied knowledge about autorickshaw drivers associated with AAP joining the all India strike. “No direction was given to any group associated with the party to join the protest. In fact,the unions associated with Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh were at the forefront of the strike,” the spokesperson said.