21/02/2015 8:17 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:24 AM IST

I Wasn't A Staunch AAP Supporter, Until I Visited Ramlila Maidan

SAJJAD HUSSAIN via Getty Images
Supporters of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) watch leader Arvind Kejriwal being sworn in as Delhi chief minister by Delhi Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung during the ceremony at Ramlila Grounds in New Delhi on February 14, 2015.  Arvind Kejriwal promised to make Delhi India's first corruption-free state and end what he called its 'VIP culture' as he was sworn in as chief minister before a huge crowd of cheering supporters. AFP PHOTO / SAJJAD HUSSAIN (Photo credit should read SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images)

I didn't have a two-rupee coin for using the Badarpur Metro washroom. The doorkeeper looked at my Aam Aadmi Party cap and smiled, "Don't worry. Just pray that Kejriwal remains healthy always."

I was returning from the swearing-in ceremony of Arvind Kejriwal and his Cabinet at Ramlila Maidan, along with my friend who had come all the way from Hyderabad to participate in the historic event. Early in the day, we had taken the Metro up to New Delhi - the station nearest to the venue.

Initially, we planned to take an autorickshaw from the station up to Ramlila Maidan. But at the station, there were white caps on every other head and a palpable excitement seemed to permeate everywhere. So we just followed them. There was instant camaraderie and we started talking -about expectations and hope of a fresh political alternative.

At the ground, the supporters were mostly from lower middle classes and the marginalised sections of society. Others might have preferred to stay back home and watch the programme on TV. Among the known faces, we saw Gul Panag, Yogendra Yadav, Alka Lamba and Ayub Khan. There were no special facilities for the celebrities; they mingled and sat with the crowd.

We were amazed to see the arrangement and discipline at the venue. It was inspiring to see volunteers of all ages guiding people to different seats and facilities. There was a Zen-like quality about their attitude; they were not flustered at all by the logistic requirements and went about their jobs smilingly and politely. These folks joined the party because they believed in it; not because they received some incentives.

It is difficult to describe the atmosphere, to describe the support and affection extended to the AAP. Strangers were hugging each other, many were breaking into impromptu patriotic songs, young people were offering their seats to the elderly, people were waving huge India flags and AAP cut-outs, some were beating drums and cymbals, children wandered about dressed as Kejriwal -in short, it was a carnival. And when finally Kejriwal spoke, it was a sight to see how people hung on to his speech - word for word - and cheered with thunderous gusto.

In the media today, there is intense discussion about the pros and cons of the AAP. Some say their agenda is populist, others say opportunists have entered the organisation, Kejriwal is a one-man show, etc, etc. Will it succeed in the long run? The jury is still out.

Without a doubt, we should think of smart cities, economic growth, international recognition -they are much needed. But right now right here, our priorities should be understood. The privileged among us don't really care about electricity, we pay for it anyway. We don't understand the concept of free water; it doesn't pinch us much to pay for it when the need arises. And we don't really survive by the roadside with a thela for livelihood, or suffer police atrocities on a daily basis. But unless such basic needs of millions of marginalised people are met, India will forever remain restless and be prone to disturbances.

True, there is a lot in the AAP manifesto and some items on the agenda seem impractical. The AAP, however, is a fledgling party with many experts and intellectuals in it and I am sure they have thought about the possible implications and implementation of the agenda points. At the end of five years, even if they fulfill half of their promises it will be a victory and a beacon to a new political experiment that can truly encapsulate the premises of the Indian Constitution Preamble -Justice, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.

Meanwhile, for thousands of people like the washroom doorman at the Badarpur Metro station, the journey of hope has just begun. Indeed, at least for the time being, AAP seems to have its heart in the right place.

More On This Topic