With eye on 2019, AAP govt in Delhi begins wooing auto drivers, its core vote base
With the AAP planning to contest Lok Sabha elections from all seven seats in Delhi, the party is now activating its workers right at the ward level. Upendra Singh, treasurer of AAP’s union of auto-rickshaw drivers said their work has already begun.Updated: Jul 24, 2018 10:42 IST
With nine months to go for the general elections, the Aam Aadmi Party government in Delhi has started reviving its core vote base — the auto-rickshaw drivers of the national capital.
On Monday, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal met as many as 500 auto drivers at his official bungalow in Civil Lines and assured them not just of increasing auto fares but also of setting up 400 auto stands across the city.
Kejriwal’s meet with the drivers came just a week after he visited a transport authority in Burari where he heard complaints of auto drivers and directed officers to bring “systemic changes” in the department. The chief minister’s visit to a transport authority was a first in his tenure since February 2015.
With the AAP planning to contest Lok Sabha elections from all seven seats in Delhi, the party is now activating its workers right at the ward level. Upendra Singh, treasurer of AAP’s union of auto-rickshaw drivers said their work has already begun.
“The general elections will be a reflection of people’s mood towards the AAP, based on which the stage would be set for the 2020 Assembly elections. Right now, auto drivers are dejected with Ola and Uber eating up their business. But if the AAP government fulfils its promise of increasing the fare and giving better facilities to drivers, then all autowallahs will side with Kejriwal overnight,” Singh said.
He added that in each of the 70 assembly constituencies in the city, seven auto drivers have been appointed as “in-charge”. “These will be gradually activated at the ward level to mobilise more people in favour of AAP,” Singh said.
Auto-rickshaw drivers, according to a senior AAP functionary, had as much as 50% contribution to the votes that the party won during the Assembly elections in 2015. “There are around one lakh auto drivers in Delhi and there are about four to five lakh people they directly influence through family. During the 2015 elections, these drivers had voluntarily campaigned for us by pasting AAP’s posters on their autos and spreading the word about Kejriwal. They are crucial messengers for the party and they need to get their due,” said an AAP leader on condition of anonymity.
Usually, auto-rickshaw owners or drivers charge between Rs 150 and Rs 200 per month as rental for carrying such posters, but they had made an exception for AAP in the assembly elections by not charging a single penny, another AAP leader said. “We had managed to put up posters on about 40,000 auto-rickshaws at that time,” the leader said.
Over two months after the party’s win in the elections, Kejriwal had held a mega rally of auto-rickshaw drivers in which he had announced that auto fares would be revised on April 1 of every year. He had also constituted a four-member fare-fixation committee, which was supposed to come up with a formula that will be used every year to revise fares automatically.
“It was a long-standing demand to make halt-and-go stand for auto drivers as police used to beat them for parking on the road. We have already made 100 and will make total 425 auto stands across Delhi,” Kejriwal had said while addressing auto-rickshaw drivers rally in North Delhi’s Burari.
However, none of it could materialise. The fare revision was rolled back after auto drivers opposed it facing stiff competition from app-based taxi aggregators. The promise of building halt-and-go stands and revising fares have been fast-tracked only now with one and a half years of tenure left for the AAP government.
“District Magistrates have been recently given the task of finalising spots for auto stands. This will be sorted in a month or so. DM south west has been made the nodal officer for the work. Auto drivers are also facing issues with their GPS devices. The chief minister has directed transport officers to resolve the problem in 10 days,” an officer in the CM’s office said on condition of anonymity.
First Published: Jul 24, 2018 10:42 IST