United colours of AAP: Characters in Kejriwal’s Punjab caravan

  • Aarish Chhabra, Hindustan Times, Jalandhar
  • Updated: Feb 29, 2016 21:20 IST
From left: Thakur Baldev Singh, Des Raj, Jagir Kaur, Veerpal Kaur, Santokh Singh. (Ravi Kumar/HT Photos)

It takes all kinds. As Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) convener and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal cuts across Punjab in a five-day tour, his events see not only numbers but faces too. HT profiles some:

‘Seems nice, whoever he is’

Jagir Kaur, 60, farm worker, Tarn Taran

Jagir Kaur with her son’s photo at her house in Sur Singh village in Tarn Taran after meeting Kejriwal. (Ravi Kumar/HT )

A farm labourer, she lost her son Rashpal Singh, 25, recently to heroin abuse, while her other son, a teenager, faces peddling charges. She was one of the mothers of over 10 drug victims that Kejriwal met at Sur Singh in Tarn Taran. But she did not know who he was. “Saanu taan ena pata hai ki koi minister Dilliyon aaya hai; changa hai, kehnde hai. Wekho, sada kuch ho je (We just know he is some minister from Delhi, and we are told he’s a good person. Let’s see, if something good comes of it),” said Jagir. A local landlord for whom she works had told her that some “big person from Delhi” was coming and could help her. “I sometimes live with one of my married daughters, which is not a respectable thing here, you know.” She’d vote for whoever gets her financial stability.

‘Drawn to AAP via TV debates’

Samarbir Singh, 25, AAP youth leader, Fazilka

This scion of a farming family is the lambardar (traditional revenue officer) of his village Rampura in border district Fazilka. He lost his father, a former sarpanch, in 2005 and his brother, a Youth Congress district chief, in 2009. His mother also remained sarpanch. But Samar, a humanities graduate with 45 acres, says he did not like politics. His pull towards the AAP started via its leaders’ arguments on “Arnab Goswami’s show”. He campaigned in the Talwandi Sabo bypoll (that AAP lost) in 2014. Now he is an AAP youth wing leader in Ferozepur segment. “We must quickly go beyond criticism and tell people what we plan to do,” he suggests. His fan moment came at Teja Ruhela village, “when I told Kejriwal-ji, ‘Sir, this is the house with two kids maimed by bad water’!” Does he want the AAP poll ticket? “Everyone has the right to desire.”

‘Wrong people can hurt right party’

Des Raj, 50, painter, Pathankot

Des Raj cautions, “Prominent people have joined AAP but not got posts. It should stay that way.” (Ravi Kumar/HT )

He let go of a ‘dihadi’ (day’s wages) to travel to Batala and see Kejriwal. “We are a group of 10 men; here in a vehicle with a local AAP leader,” he said. “I have worked as a wall painter my entire life; and my three sons too work on daily wages. It’s good to keep changing regimes; you never know which one works.” But he cautions, “Prominent people have joined but not got posts. It should stay that way.”

‘Religion later; he deserves a chance’

Jagraj Singh, 32, Nihang Sikh preacher, Dhilwan, Kapurthala

Jagraj Singh Khalsa belongs to “the ilk of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale”. (Ravi Kumar/HT)

He says he belongs to “the ilk of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale”, and has a simple theory: “We’ve been called terrorists, and our leader vilified no end, cheated even by the so-called ‘representatives of Sikhs’. This man (Kejriwal) is not into all that, it appears. He deserves a chance.” About AAP’s alleged dual view on Bhindranwale, he says, “Truth does not change. Even if a pandit talks bad of Lord Shiv, He does not become any less great… On religion, hear this: Guru Gobind Singh made the Khalsa for a pious purpose, and Kejriwal is walking that path.”

‘Follow my heart’, on a scooter

Santokh Singh, 75, retd govt servant, Shahkot

Santokh Singh is to Punjab AAP what the Barmy Army is to the English cricket team. (Ravi Kumar/HT)

He is to Punjab AAP what the Barmy Army is to the English cricket team. Except that he is a one-man army, whose son happens to be in the army. Retired from the state animal husbandry department, Santokh Singh was at the gates of the Jalandhar hotel where Kejriwal met industrialists; impossible to miss with his scooter decked up and a stereo blaring AAP propaganda songs. He says he spends from his pension (` 14,000/month) to campaign for AAP; worked (minus the scooter) for the Akalis and the Congress too. “Near the end of my life, I wanted to follow my heart. Here it is,” he points to the scooter.

‘I am the speaker’

Thakur Baldev Singh, 42, farmer-trader, Hoshiarpur

AAP supporter Thakur Baldev Singh carries a microphone-speaker from venue to venue in a car. (Ravi Kumar/HT )

Baldev is carrying a microphone-speaker from venue to venue in a car, raising slogans. At Bajajan near Jalandhar, the local sound system is “not loud enough”, says Kejriwal. Baldev is quick to hand his stuff over to the leader. “I was in fact trained as a speaker for the party.” He was formerly with the BJP, but “did not get my due there”. He even wanted to move to the now-defunct PPP, but “that did not work out”. “I joined AAP before Delhi polls as they challenge the status quo.” He presents himself as a ticket contender too, underlining that he is from the Rajput community, “though I have hold in other groups.”

‘Women must choose their politics’

Veerpal Kaur, 55, AAP leader, Gidderbaha

Veerpal Kaur comes from a family that was “kattar” (staunch) Akali. (Ravi Kumar/HT)

She comes from a family of “kattar” (staunch) Akalis. Her husband is a professor, while her elder son is in the air force and the younger one a sales executive. “I joined recently. Our job is to convince women that they must make their own choice, including in their politics. This party allows that space, hopefully.” Isn’t she an oddball in the mix, we prod. “Politics runs in our family; it’s just that now I am more out there!”

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