Bimla Verma, a gutsy resident of Tughlaq Lane jhuggi cluster, patiently listened to Arvind Kejriwal, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader, telling the small gathering about his party’s plans for preparing manifesto addressing their issues.
As Kejriwal finishes his talk, asks people to list of their issues and promises to fulfill whatever is possible for his party, Verma asks him, rather outspokenly, to share his office address and number.
“Political leaders have come and gone. After elections, don’t vanish like others. I need your office address so that I can come searching for you,” she said prompting everyone around, including Kejriwal, to burst out laughing.
It is Saturday morning and Kejriwal is in her locality, a narrow lane adjoining Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi’s residence, for local manifesto meeting. There are 100-odd slum dwellings jostling for space just enough for parking at the most 10 SUVs in a line.
Pradhan of the slum cluster, an alert-about-rights Chchiddan Lal narrates the threatening possibility of being relocated to far off Bawana in the name of rehabilitation.
“People here work in bungalows around here. Delhi government has planned to relocate us to Bawana. Can’t the government policy think how these men and women commute from far off places?” he fumes.
“We will ensure that slum dwellers are given pucca houses and are not relocated to far off places,” Kejriwal promised. This was his third local manifesto meeting of the day in New Delhi constituency, from where he has declared to take on chief minister Sheila Dikshit.
Earlier he had attended such meetings at the Multi-storied apartments at KG Marg and another government colony in DIZ area, near Gol Market. He has planned about 45 such meetings in the New Delhi constituency – which has elected Dikshit for three consecutive terms – and completed 38 on Saturday.
The meetings started with Kejriwal telling the gathering as to why they were prompted to form the political party in the first place, then he reminded people about their latest survey findings and finally reiterated the announcement of the special assembly session at Ramlila maidan on December 29 to pass the Janlokpal bill.
Harping on the party’s unique approach of preparing manifestos for each constituency as per the local area’s requirement, Kejriwal then opened stage for residents to list out their problems. It was a pattern that Kejriwal followed at all the local manifesto meetings.
The meetings at Gole Market and Sunehari Bagh lane addressed discussed local issues and also the general issues plaguing Delhi.
“It is such a sad thing that this Gole Market colony, barely one kilometre from the Rashtrapati Bhavan, has water supply problems,” Kejriwal said.
Harendra Mahato requested a designated spot for Chhath puja and a water body with it, which he said was regularly broken down by authorities.
At Sunehari Bagh lane, the residents of 83 houses were staring at demolition of their houses as the government plans to build a new road across their colony. “I will have to see the proposal before promising anything. But this much I can ensure is, the solution will be such which will not demolish anybody’s house,” Kejriwal said.
Earlier in the morning, at the KG Marg meeting, the gathering comprised a mix of IAS officials in the high-rise government accommodation and domestic aids from the servants’ quarters in the same premises.
Shalini Singh, an NDMC employee, pointed out to the problems associated with contractual appointments, to which Kejriwal promised: “When AAP government comes to power, we will abolish contractual system for all such jobs that are done for 365 days.”
Ishika Tiwari, an English Honours student of Vekateswara College, said, “When I return from college in the evening, most of the time, the issue of women’s safety bogs down my mind.”
“The need is to train youth and also the autorickshaw drivers and engage them meaningfully so that they are not inclined into anti-social activity,” the AAP leader said.
But a question that Kejriwal could not answer was by a senior government official, who did not wished to be named: “Women are less corrupt, this will help in improving the system. Why are there not enough women candidates in the AAP?”
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