Today, I went for the Aam Aadmi Party's public meeting at Freedom Park, Bangalore. It was a political rally with a number of differences.
I reached the venue at 3 pm. There was a fairly a good crowd. At a booth near the entrance, one could pick up the AAP caps. They were for free, but the organizers expected a contribution -- of any amount -- towards the party. One could also register as a volunteer or even formally join the party. I made my way towards the podium, through the crowd, with some difficulty. I noticed that there was a barricade separating the audience -- women who had come alone or along with men, and senior citizens on one side; and men on the other side.
The composition of the crowd stood out. They were definitely not brought to the town from neighbourhood villages. No one paid them. But on the contrary, the members of the audience had offered whatever they could to the party's kitty. The audience comprised middle class and upper middle class people in the 25 to 40 age group. But there was a significant number of elderly people as well. Definitely not the ones who would normally go to such rallies, they were the new breed political followers who were evidently attracted by the pitch of the greenhorn party.
|The huge crowd of young middle class and upper middle class people who had come to the AAP rally in Bangalore|
The podium wasn't covered. Obviously, since the party doesn't have the money to get an ornamental pandal and decorations. Everyone was sitting in hot (by Bangalore standards) sun.
At 4.10 pm, Arvind Kejriwal arrived to a thunderous applause and cheers of the crowd that had swollen to huge numbers by then. The AAP candidates were introduced to the crowd and there were speeches by a number of people, including a 96-year old person, Doraiswamy, if I remember the name right. He spoke so vociferously and passionately on the state of the nation lamenting the lack of progress even after decades of independence from the British. A former career diplomat, who resigned after the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition, too spoke, singing paeans to Kejriwal's dream of a new India.
Around 4.45 pm Kejriwal began speaking. It was the usual tirade against Congress, BJP, Rahul Gandhi, Narendra Modi and many others of both the national parties, besides Mukesh Ambani. Most of the attack was targeted against Modi, since he is tipped to the next prime minister going by multiple opinion polls. He read out names of many politicians of the BJP and the Congress who were allegedly involved in corrupt deals. He kept asking why Modi had to have people involved in dubious backgrounds in his ministry or in the party.
|Arvind Kejriwal addressing AAP's Bangalore rally|
This was definitely a political rally with a difference; at least for the following reasons:
- The type of crowd, comprising young, educated middle class and upper middle class people.
- The lack of any decorations at the venue. There was no shade or even chairs on the the podium.
- The festive atmosphere, with music, songs and dance.
- The determination of speakers to plough a new and different track in India's political discourse.
- Speeches free of old rhetoric of freeing the country from poverty, a staple of usual political speeches;
- Projection of common man's problems as the most pertinent political theme.
But the challenges before Kejriwal and AAP are huge. Because they are not fighting an issue or two. They are taking on an entire system which has run the country all these years, and to which we all have got used to.
Not many realise that this is a challenge not just for Kejriwal and AAP but for all the common people too, since they all will have to get used to a new system crafted by Kejriwal and AAP. Fired-up party leaders may be ready for the required sacrifice, but are the common people ready for that sacrifice?
Only time will tell, but surely, a beginning has been made -- a beginning that will, for sure, have a bearing on the results of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.