Traffic came to a standstill as supporters of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) spilled onto streets to welcome Arvind Kejriwal. But Mumbai, the city of many political uprisings, did not rise as one to fall behind the man who changed the political architecture in Delhi.
On his day out in Mumbai, Kejriwal connected Mumbaiites in a way that few politicians have done: slick south Mumbaikars to slums, private car travellers to suburban railway, staunch Hindus to Khilafat philosophy.
Among the converted, he evoked passion and hope in huge proportions. It was easy to believe that revolution was just round the corner as he spoke in Byculla and Vikhroli.
A police inspector on duty wanted to share ideas with him to rid the force of corruption and erase poverty from Mumbai. “If anyone can do it, Kejriwal can,” he said. Kejriwal’s audiences, the rickshaw drivers, shoe-shine boys at stations, and especially slum-dwellers in Vikhroli mobilised largely by AAP candidate Medha Patkar latched on to his words.
What he said is familiar by now: There’s no (Narendra) Modi wave but only a wave of anger in people, the Congress and the BJP have both looted people, if you want a change you must come out and vote for it.
But large masses of Mumbaikars, though sympathetic and enthusiastic, were yet to be converted to his brand of agitational, ideologically-anodyne politics.
They either watched in amusement or complained about the delays, traffic snarls and other inconveniences that Kejriwal and his entourage left in their wake as they criss-crossed the city.
This is part of the city’s continuing chronicle with Kejriwal, Anna Hazare and their movements. Through the last two years, as they roused Delhi with anti-corruption agitations and a new political language, Mumbai’s reaction ranged from lukewarm to disinterested.
In the absence of ground-level engagement, many see Kejriwal’s wooing of Mumbai as theatrics. At Andheri station, where he boarded a train, Jagdishbhai Patel, months away from his retirement in an insurance company, said: “Kejriwal is doing drama; such drama may work in Delhi but it never does here.”
Mumbai places a premium on pragmatism, after all.