In the narrow lanes of Shantinagar, off the Markam road, Bangalore Central Candidate for Aam Aadmi Party V Balakrishnan decided to start his first campaign, Jansabha. The location was the crowded junction of the five lanes that had constant movement of scooters and bikes. The event was scheduled on Friday, 14th March 2013.
Young volunteers ran up and down fixing the banners and placing the red carpet on the floor, while senior citizens distributed the pamphlets. The party’s symbol “Zhadu” (broom) was placed at the two open corners of the stage. At the background, the speakers relentlessly aired the Aam Aadmi Party’s song that spoke about rise in onion’s prices because of untapped corruption. The song had Kejriwal’s voice asking people to end corruption.
The breed of volunteers included students, some techies and some entrepreneurs. A man in his mid-30’s who wore a Khaki shirt — an auto driver by profession, Mehamood was seen helping out the party members. He provides free service to AAP whenever they need his help. He is the representative of the common man tired of corruption and wanting change.
Mehamood believes that AAP will successfully uproot it. As he spoke about corruption, his eyes were filled with tears. He took his breath and continued: “How much corruption is happening in India? No one works without cash. To procure an ordinary income certificate I had to pay Rs. 700. I was very happy when AAP won in Delhi; I want the corruption to end.” This was the sentiment prevailing in the Jansabha venue.
‘Economic policy needs clean governance’
V Balakrishnan entered the venue, attired in a blue, short kurta and a black straight cut jeans, holding a tab in his hand. Immediately he was surrounded by media. They asked him his views on corruption and what economic policy he suggested. He said, “For any economic policy, the basic requirement is clean government. The best of the people in the government will be able to chalk out the best economic policies which will be implemented in the best possible way.” He believes a best economic policy needs good number of job opportunities and stable judicial system.
Talking about creation of employment, he said, “Government is incapable of creating jobs. We need to create at least 1.2 crore jobs per year, therefore we need 10 lakh jobs a month. Once upon a time our growth rate was close to 8 to 10 % but today we grow at 5 %. We need participation of private parties and a transparent ecosystem, where honest enterprises can start their own business and flourish and create job opportunities.”
He continued, “A total of three crore cases are pending across all the courts. A stable law is a must. We can’t keep changing regulations. What we need is certainty and effective judicial system too.”
Patriotism in the air
There was euphoria and patriotism in the air as AAP volunteers raised slogans like, “Bharat Mata Ki Jai”, “Vande Mataram” and “Inqilab Zindabad.”
The Aam aadmi Party slogans were also in the air. “Bhrashtachar pe de jhadu, de jhadu! Rishvatkhore pe de jhadu, de jhadu ! ((Sweep out the corruption, Sweep it out! Sweep out the person who ask for bribe, Sweep it out!) was the famous slogan. This coupled with a customised slogan for the occasion, though in Hindi: “Arvind, Bala aage badho, Hum tumhare saath hain!” (Arvind, Bala go ahead, we are with you!)
Volunteers together sang Vande Mataram after which the Jansabha began. The members of AAP from state and constituency sat on the floor of the stage, not on chair like any other party. It reminded the onlookers of the AAP protests and campaigns held in Delhi telecast all over television channels.
‘Aam Aadmi will go to Parliament’
There were less volunteers on the occasion. AAP members said they were all busy preparing for the next day’s big event — Kejriwal’s visit. Even though the party in Bangalore is still at a nascent stage, it claimed to have received support from 1,30,000 auto rickshaw drivers across the state.
The bike riders and pedestrians on the way stopped to see what was going on. Shopkeepers listened keenly to members on the stage who alleged that the politicians who were supposed to serve people are ‘ruling,’ and because of them the Aam Aadmi is bearing the brunt of price rise and inflation.
Siddharth Sharma, one of the leaders of AAP in Karnataka spoke about Balakrishnan. He said: “There was no need for Balakrishnan to hold a broom in his hand (the party symbol). Because of corrupt system, a common man today has to step out. Balakrishnan will just be a name that will represent Bangalore Central, but in reality you and I will go into the parliament.” The audience clapped with joy.
V Balakrishnan gave an account of his journey. “I had everything in life. I have enough money, but I wanted to do something beyond Infosys.” He displayed his discontent towards the present state of the nation. “There is no security around, you step out of the ATM, you get attacked. We have the best Prime Minister but he is not effective. Even if we have best economic policy, we lack the implementation.”
He continued, “I want to clean the system. I don’t need money, power but I want to change the system.” He said he finds similarity between the 1947 and 2014 calendar. “In 1947 India received Independence. In 2014, India will get independence from corruption!” He concluded his talk by saying, “We will build new India!” while volunteers hailed “Bharat Mata Ki Jai!“
Change already visible!
Ninami Ghosh, an IBM employee who is on leave and is volunteering for AAP, believes that root cause of all problems in the city is corruption and AAP is the only way to uproot it. Ninami believes that a clean candidate like Balakrishnan will bring a lot of change in system. “He is a vehicle that will lead the party to the law making position, he has the potential to change at least this part of Bangalore,” she adds.
Kunal Potdar, 22-year-old youth volunteering full time for AAP puts it differently. “No other party thought of re-structuring the country internally. It is a party that understands that India is one dynamic country with huge population and surplus internal trade, which can do massive difference in the world. No other party feels that India can do anything else.”
When asked whether a person from the finance background will be able to govern better, Pramod said: “Different ministers sometimes hold portfolios they don’t even have background about. What matters is a politician should be able to maintain good and healthy good governance system. They shouldn’t give in to crony capitalism.”
“Bala understands the nitty gritties of the economy and how to boost the internal trade. How the economic and labour policy should be framed. We need good financial people like him in the system,” he concludes.
Perhaps the need for change has been seen more than ever before – Bangalore is also not an exception. Will AAP be the change people are seeking? However, the politics is a different game today already, with noticeable change in the quality of candidates, and youth and educated being involved in politics. Probably tomorrow will be better, With this hope, we close our campaign trail and pack up.
Fresh in politics means there’s no legacy to defend: V Balakrishnan
Nandan Nilekani’s day out with voters
Checking out election campaigning at Ulsoor Lake
Door to door campaigning is missing!!!
>> In Bangalore, especially, there is a decent amount of conversation happening between corporate and the government on various civic issues like roads, infrastructure etc.
And this is precisely the reason why Bangalore’s infrastructure is being geared towards the privileged class – car users. Road-widening, flyovers, signal-free corridors – all such schemes that inconvenience the common person (pedestrian, public-transport user) just so that people in cars can drive faster.
If Balakrishnan promises more of the same, it doesn’t matter which party he comes from. It’s not what Bangalore needs.