Arvind Kejriwal puts Mumbai's common man in a jam
Landing in the western metropolis for his Maharashtra tour, AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal on Wednesday boarded an autorickshaw to travel a five-km distance to the Andheri station.Updated: Mar 12, 2014 23:37 IST
Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal's maiden visit to Mumbai ahead of Lok Sabha elections was marred by chaos and caused inconvenience to aam aadmi.
Kejriwal himself faced many hurdles and had to skip some events, among them the much-hyped Jhadoo Chalao Yatra from the historic August Kranti Maidan, where he was supposed to address the media and attend a cultural programme.
The Mumbai police did not give AAP permission to start the yatra and objected to a cavalcade of rickshaws which accompanied the leader from the domestic airport to Andheri railway station, reasoning it blocked traffic at several places.
The railway commuters complained of inconvenience when the AAP workers boarded the train with Kejriwal and then allegedly blocked the daily commuters from entering the coaches. The AAP workers also damaged two door-frame metal detectors at the Churchgate station.
The AAP's Lok Sabha candidate Mayank Gandhi blamed the police for the chaos and inconvenience caused to the people.
"The police acted in a partisan manner. We had submitted the entire journey plan to the police and they should have taken required measures instead of blaming us for their failure," said Gandhi.
But he admitted that the AAP did not expect a huge turnout for their events and the party supporters were overwhelmed by their leader's visit.
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The police, however, accused the AAP of violating rules by not seeking permission for the cavalcade.
"It was almost like a poll campaign and they did not seek any permission," said a senior police officer on the condition of anonymity.
Gandhi, however, denied the gathering had anything to do with elections, saying AAP workers had gone to welcome their leaders.
Kejriwal was to march through the party's three Lok Sabha candidates---Gandhi, former banker Meera Sanyal and activist Medha Patkar.
Right from Wednesday morning, the arrivals section of Terminal 1 A of the domestic airport was packed with AAP workers wearing their trademark white caps and shouting pro-Kejriwal slogans.
After coming out, Kejriwal took a rickshaw from the airport and headed straight to Andheri railway station to board a Churchgate-bound local train. His vehicle followed by several rickshaws, while AAP workers' private vehicles blocked the traffic off the Western Express Highway and the roads leading to the station.
The scene at Andheri station also was chaotic, with AAP supporters thronging the premises. As he entered the station compound, Kejriwal climbed on to the boundary wall and thanked the people for their support. The leader also shouted slogans.
Jeeta Jain, a student, said she stopped at the station because she wanted to "see the man who did a miracle in New Delhi".
The police had deployed a sizable number of unarmed and armed personnel to guard the leader all the way.
The scene at Churchgate station was no different. For more than 20 minutes, Kejriwal was stuck at the station due to chaotic rush of people. And when he left, overenthusiastic AAP supporters damaged two metal detectors at the station.
Home minister RR Patil said such rallies caused discomfort to commuters.
"Political parties should think twice while organising such road shows and marches. In a city like Mumbai, it subjects people to discomfort," he said.
The AAP leader had to cancel the media interaction in the afternoon, as traffic chaos sent his plans awry.
A group of youths showed black flags to Kejriwal as he was leaving the station. They said they did not belong to any organisation but were students who were protesting against Kejriwal's alleged "media management" as seen in a leaked video of him on YouTube in which he appears to tell a news anchor to highlight parts of his interview.
AAP, contesting its first Lok Sabha elections, is looking at Mumbai as a major target after Delhi, where it formed a government for little less than two months with outside support from the Congress.
The party is also targeting the Maharashtra Assembly elections due later this year.
Kejriwal's entry into the metropolis set the Twitter abuzz.
"Kejriwal in Mumbai already. Shahrukh's days as the greatest actor are numbered," tweeted @Roflindian.
Given the AAP leader's propensity to smell scams, @rameshsrivats satirically wrote: "Arvind Kejriwal is taking local train from Andheri, uh? Hope he doesn't think Churchgate is the name of some scam."
While @mojorojo thought it opportune to voice his grievance against autorickshaw drivers.
"Bet the auto-guy who ferried Kejriwal to the station will very un-ironically refuse people short-distance journeys in the afternoon," @mojorojo tweeted.
Others tried to extract a few laughs out of his visit.
"Kejriwal isn't true Aam Aadmi unless he's been pick pocketed between Mahim and Dadar in the train," said @thetanmay.
"If Kejriwal was real Aam Aadmi, first autowallah would have refused to take him to his destination," tweeted @bwoyblunder.
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First Published: Mar 12, 2014 13:17 IST