It was a hot, humid morning in old Delhi’s ChandniChowk area which was already humming with activity — and awaiting a politically tumultuous day ahead with balloting just a week away.
ChandniChowk, the old “silver street” of the Mughal era that leads down from the majestic Red Fort and is now a centre of commerce, particularly of the wholesale business in every merchandise that one can think of, is witnessing one of the most interesting fights this poll season with the AamAadmi Party (AAP) fielding former TV anchor Ashutosh against Congress’s two-time winning candidate KapilSibal, union minister, and the BharatiyaJanata Party’s Harsh Vardhan, who was the chief ministerial nominee for the party in the recent Delhi assembly elections.
Despite the crowd and torrid heat, the election fervour is hard to miss, with auto rickshaws displaying posters of Sibal and Ashutosh, and the trademark AAP caps visible even from a distance.
Also, AAP workers slowly emerged on motorcycles and on foot, waving flags and banner with Ashutosh’s picture along with party leader ArvindKejriwal. All of them assembled at Turkman Gate, one of the surviving gates of the erstwhile Walled City, and then marched to Minto Road (BhavbhutiMarg), a neighbourhood of government employees.
The banners boldly stated: “PhirChalegiJhaadoo” (the magic of the broom [the party’s symbol] will return to power).
This scene was a precursor to Ashutosh’sroadshow, scheduled for the day. The area also saw a roadshow by Harsh Vardhan, later followed by Sibal’s walkabout.
“I am all geared up for the rally and have been waiting here for Ashutosh since 9 a.m.,” saidRamjilalJha, an auto-rickshaw driver.
Flaunting the party’s cap, 38-year-old Jha smilingly added that waiting for his leader is no big issue, come rain or shine.
“I will follow Ashutosh wherever he goes today. I have taken special permission from the Election Commission to distribute the party’s pamphlet also,” he added, while pasting a poster of the leader on his auto-rickshaw.
Jha was joined by various other supporters, many of them Muslims, wearing skull caps. Some of them even urged curious passers-by to vote for the AAP, which governed Delhi for 49 days earlier this year.
But for the supporters the wait was long, as the leader only turned up around noon — and with senior leader Manish Sisodia in tow aboard a black coloured jeep began the rally with songs like “BaarBaarHaan” from the hit Bollywood movie “Lagaan” playing in the background.
Attacking the Congress and BJP, Sisodia said: “We won in Delhi, and I am sure of winning again. People have seen the real faces of the Congress and the BJP, so our win is certain.”
Harsh Vardhan, who took to the streets with his supporters around 3 p.m., waved at the crowd.
“Though it is old-school roadshow, the response in the area is phenomenal, and our campaign is going great,” a member close to the BJP candidate told IANS.
Harsh Vardhan’s convoy meandered through some of the cramped quarters of the walled city, with its byzantine lanes, and known for its authentic Mughlai cuisine, wedding trousseau and silver jewellery.
Standing atop an open jeep, he greeted the cheering crowd, which comprised mostly local businessmen and shoppers.
As the leaders and their convoys passed through the bylanes of the area, people could be seen cheering and waving out to them from their houses and the streets.
Some even joined the cavalcade, rooting for their leaders.
“I have taken a day off today to be with the leader I support. This is the only time I can give back to the party, which promises to help fight our cause after they win. This is essential to ensure that they win,” an onlooker said.
Standing at the gate of her colony, 35-year-old housewife PoonamChauhan, said all this campaigning is good as long as all the elected leaders fulfil their promises.
Agreed Soma, a 45-year-old washerwoman, who told IANS: “We want inflation and prices to go down. Only then will I believe that the party leaders are worth trusting.”
Georgina Lazer, 80-year-old retired housemaker, who was keenly watching the aggressive campaigning, said she has always been a Congress loyalist.
“We have always voted for the Congress, and this time too will stick to it. We do not care if the party wins or not, our loyalty will be with the party,” said Lazer.