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The mind of the people: what they say about Kejriwal

AS the 2014 Lok Sabha polls draw closer, the question being discussed by TV talking heads and aam aadmis alike is whether Arvind Kejriwal, the face of the AAP in the capital, can capture the imagination of Indians across the country

india Updated: Jan 12, 2014 09:43 IST
Hindustan Times
Arvind Kejriwal,what people are saying about AAP,AAP leader

“I want to see Kejriwal as Aam Admi Party’s PM candidate”

SN Shukla, Retired IAS Officer
Uttar Pradesh

For 70-year-old SN Shukla, the rise of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) under the leadership of Arvind Kejriwal has been a breath of fresh air. The retired IAS officer from Uttar Pradesh believes the AAP has done what the nation needed most — made an attempt to cleanse the political system. “If the people at the helm of affairs are men of integrity, they will take care of the rest,” said Shukla, who is associated with Lok Prahari, an NGO working to bring in electoral reforms and remove corruption in politics. The organisation was one of the petitioners in the recently-announced Supreme Court verdict that debarred convicted politicians from contesting elections. “From raising his voice against corruption and bringing people onto the streets in a non-violent protest during the India Against Corruption (IAC) days to becoming the chief minister of Delhi, Kejriwal has accomplished a Herculean feat,” he said. Shukla believes that though Kejriwal may take some time to deal with the issues facing the capital as he is a not-so-seasoned politician, he has still taken steps in the right direction. In states like Uttar Pradesh, where politics is dominated by money, muscle power and considerations of caste and community, a political alternative provided by AAP could be acceptable, according to Shukla. “UP would certainly be a different ball game. Here, he needs more time to deal with issues,” he said adding that he would like to see Kejriwal as AAP’s prime ministerial candidate.
Gulam Jeelani

“Let him prove himself in Delhi first”

Umesh Kumar Rai Farmer
The Aam Admi Party(AAP)’s phenomenal rise in Delhi and speculations that it could field candidates from Bihar and UP for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls have raised Umesh Kumar Rai’s hopes. “Kejriwal has emerged as an inspiring leader. He talks of fighting corruption, of ushering in transparency in working and giving priority to issues concerning the common people. These are traits that make him different from other leaders,” said the 40-year-old farmer from Shahjahanpur village, 15 kms from Patna. Rai who had not expected Kejriwal to become chief minister so soon is impressed that the AAP has ordered an audit of power companies to know the per-unit cost for power and what people have to pay. He believes it is important to know the cost of generation to realistically fix the tariff. “If the power tariff can be lowered by 50 per cent in Delhi, why should it not be done in Bihar? If that happens, there is no reason why people will not support Kejriwal,” he said. “If Kejriwal is able to fulfill even 75 per cent of the promises he made, people will support him.” Rai thinks the party would have to choose the right candidates to expand its base in the state. “In Bihar, the AAP unit is not yet fully organised, but there is increasing interest in the party. It might be too early to form an opinion about Kejriwal as a prime ministerial candidate,” he said. “Let him first prove himself in Delhi.” -- Arun Kumar

“It is really the Kejriwal effect!”

Premchand Shah Businessman
According to Premchand Shah, Kejriwal has captured popular imagination across the country. Shah, who heads the Dhobi Talao Business Association, compares Kejriwal to Mahatma Gandhi who shook the British Empire. Shah, who agitated against the Local Body Tax (LBT) which was the replacement for octroi, said the current rulers had spoilt the state and the country’s business environment. “We have Kejriwal who reduced water and power tariffs, which is rare these days,” said Shah. “Now we are hearing our MPs demanding the same. Where were they for so many years? It is really the Kejriwal effect,” he said adding that it was not populism but a well thought out decision taken for the welfare of the people. He is doubtful of the AAP’s success in Mumbai citing that issues are different here. “Kejriwal campaigning in Mumbai will bolster the party’s prospects here but it is difficult to say if his popularity will convert into votes,” he said. However, Kejriwal as PM will be good, feels Shah, as he has shown the way to clean politics. -- Naresh Kamath

“I hope Anna joins him”

Omer Firdous, Shopkeeper
In a place where joining mainstream political parties is still a risky proposition, the assembly poll result in Delhi seems to have changed quite a few minds in Kashmir. Omer Firdous, a shop owner in Srinagar is impressed. “Who could imagine that a common man would become Chief Minister in the heart of the country?” wondered Omer. He believes Kejriwal will not stop at being Delhi chief minister. “He is a national phenomenon and I hope that the AAP fields candidates from the Valley,” he said. Omer feels that, given the issues plaguing the state, such as corruption and misgovernance, the AAP will strike a chord with the people of Kashmir. “Every now and then we have protests; employees are begging for wages; the common person for bijli, sadak and paani. The authorities take years to build a road!” he said. Omer, feels Kejriwal and his party is the answer. “I hope Anna joins him. Defeating both Modi and Rahul will be a piece of cake for him. But even otherwise Kejriwal will surely make a huge difference,” said Omer who has contacted the AAP recruitment cell in Kashmir and is ready to take the plunge into politics. -- Toufiq Rashid

“Let him prove his mettle”

P S Sreekala, Assistant Professor
The day AAP (Aam Aadmi Party) assumed power in Delhi, PS Sreekala, an assistant professor in the KKTM Government College, was upbeat. More than Arvind Kejriwal becoming the Chief Minister, she was elated by the hope that AAP would help influence traditional political parties to redraw their strategies and make them more accountable. Although she admires Kejriwal, she is waiting to assess if he can solve the country’s pressing problems. She believes it will be difficult for Kejriwal to make his presence felt across the country in a short span of time. “The Indian middle class is more assertive these days. They are not only concerned about the present but also about the future. Riding on an anti-corruption wave, Kejriwal and the party managed to catch its attention,” she said adding that it might be difficult for the AAP leader to make inroads in Kerala “where everyone talks and breathes politics”. “In certain pockets of north India, the AAP can reap some dividends. But, as a whole, it is premature to give a strong slot for the fledgling party,” said Sreekala, who thinks Kejriwal’s simplicity is encouraging, but that some of his austerity measures are cosmetic.
Ramesh Babu

“Kejriwal’s clean image will attract the youth”

Joeeta Basu, Teacher

West Bengal
Joeeta Basu, who teaches economics at St Xavier’s School in Kolkata thinks Arvind Kejriwal has brought about a sea change in the mindset of people regarding politics in India. “Kejriwal has proved that having a political background is not necessary to make it big in politics, and that even a novice can capture the imagination of voters, provided he sticks to his stand,” she said. Like many in the country, Basu never imagined Kejriwal could make it to the coveted chair in his debut election. “I doubt he himself was expecting the same,” remarked Basu who is also a social activist and a strong votary of Right to Food. Does she think the Delhi chief minister would be able to fulfill his promises? “It’s too early to say. He did start with a bang, providing free water as promised to every resident of Delhi and slashing electricity tariffs,” she said. She is unsure if he would make as much of an impression in West Bengal. “In Bengal,despite people being politically more conscious, politics is highly polarised. But I think Kejriwal’s clean image will attract a huge number of youth who are desperate for a change,” she said.
Orin Basu

“The party with the broom symbol”

Jayla Singh, Tractor driver
Merkhedi village
Madhya Pradesh
21-year-old Jayla Singh from the tribal-dominated district of Barwani, about 315 km southwest of Bhopal, saw Arvind Kejriwal on television at a shop recently. Some people were discussing the man and his tremendous success in the Delhi assembly elections. While he does not recognise Kejriwal and other AAP leaders, the fledgling party’s symbol has been etched in his mind. “Achchha woh jhaadu wali party (The party with the broom as its symbol)?” was his response when asked if he had heard about the AAP. His recognising AAP’s symbol may be a warning to major political parties as it has been noticed that the tribal population relates more to symbols than to personalities. Living in his own world and toiling in his own or others’ fields, a tribal labourer here knows the Congress by “Panja” and BJP by “Phool”. Jayla, who is employed as a tractor driver with a farmer, doesn’t know much more about Kejriwal. When asked if he saw solutions to his problems if Kejriwal cames to the state, he hesitated at first, but later spoke in the affirmative. -- Animesh Jain

“A Kejriwal revolution is the need of the hour”

S Chandramouli Student
Tamil Nadu
“The split in the Aam Aadmi party in Tamil Nadu came as a shock, but we hope these are small troubles that will be handled by the party’s leaders in Delhi. This incident only goes to show how important the party has become in the eyes of the people,” said S Chandramouli, an MSc student at Anna University. From whatever he knows about Arvind Kejriwal, who has attained cult status among the youth in the state for taking on the big guns of the Congress and the BJP, the 24-year-old is certain he will quickly sort out the mess in Tamil Nadu. “Kejriwal’s first few days as chief minister have shown his strong yearning to help the common man,” he says. He is certain, though, that Kejriwal needs the support of the people and won’t be able to do much alone. “In Tamil Nadu, there is scope for AAP to perform and Kejriwal’s presence here will energise students and the youth,” he said adding that given the country’s many problems, “a Kejriwal revolution is the need of the hour”. -- KV Lakshmana

First Published: Jan 12, 2014 09:36 IST