At Azadpur mandi rally one assumed there would be a great meeting of like-minded people. West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee had specially flown down from Kolkata to join hands with her Delhi counterpart Arvind Kejriwal against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s demonetisation policy. They chose the largest market of fruits and vegetables in Asia because business here has been badly hit because of lack of cash. A historic pact between the two leaders who claim to best respresent the interests of the common man had the potential to posing a serious political challenge for hte Modi camp.
But for several reasons, Kejriwal’s attempts at painting Modi as an enemy of the common man fizzled out like a bottle of soda.
Here are five reasons why it turned out to be such a flop show:
1. People are inconvenienced not angry
The fact of the matter is people aren’t really angry with Narendra Modi. All the anti-Modi sloganeering that happened at the Azadpur rally came from AAP party workers. This is not to say people aren’t facing problem due lack of cash and long queues outside ATMs and banks. The fact is at most they are irritated, they aren’t angry yet. At least the crowd at Azadpur didn’t look angry. All rhetorical questions by AAP leaders like Dilip Pandey and Kapil Mishra didn’t excite any answer from the crowd.
2. AAP attacking Modi on non-issue
Kejriwal was as usual was waving papers while alleging bribes taken by Narendra Modi when he was the Gujarat chief minister. The crowd there wasn’t really bothered about that. Further, attacking Modi for “sending his mother to stand in a queue” and for “leaving” his wife, was not only personal in nature but also demerits AAP’s claims that they were not out to do politics but solve people’s problems. Speeches by AAP leaders sounded like any other election rally speech. In fact, Kejriwal’s speech was so boring that this reporter had to leave the event mid-way.
3. Wrong intention
On the demonetisation issue, AAP seems to be playing politics rather than being voice of genuinely disgruntled people. See this for example: He asked people, if they knew Vijay Mallya. This is how Kejriwal introduces Mallya: “He sells liquor. He is an old man and yet poses with young girls”. Then he makes a wild allegation that Modi had personally helped him escape the country after he couldn’t pay back his loans. Now if this is the standard of political opposition on an issue that has affected all strata of people, particularly the Azadpur mandi crowd he was speaking to, Kejriwal has no right to be taken seriously. It is clear that he is interested in doing politics and not in voicing people’s concern.
4. A poor crowd
The turn-out at the rally was really low. Many of the Mandi people the reporter spoke to, had no real opinion on what Kejriwal said, nor did they think that the chief minister would be able to change a decision that has already been taken by the central government. They said they had only turned up as 90 per cent of the shops in the Mandi were shut. They were protesting against attacks on vegetable sellers there. They were there in the hope that Kejriwal would raise the issue of lack of safety for the people who stay in the market.
5. Jumping the gun by calling Modi ‘corrupt’
Kejriwal should have waited for some more time before waving those papers in public and making charges of corruption against Narendra Modi, who continues to enjoy a clean image among people. This at a time when the Prime Minister is being seen as someone trying to battle black money. Instead of exposing the loopholes of the policy which has caused inconvenience to crores of people despite its intension being at the right place, Kejriwal chose to jump the gun and accuse Modi of corruption. This is a sentiment that didn’t resonate with the crowd present at Azadpur Mandi.
If the purpose of the event at Azadpur Mandi was to convert the disgruntlement of people into real anger and push them into a movement that would force the government to revoke its decision, Kejiwal has completely failed in it.