By Sushil Kutty
Arvind Kejriwal’s gimmicks! There was the time, early in his political career, January 2014 to be precise, when Kejriwal slept on the side of the road outside the Rail Bhawan in New Delhi, his body at ease on a mattress placed next to his famed blue Wagon-R that he swore will be his vehicle for life come what may. October 2017, the Wagon-R went missing from outside the secretariat and was found in a Ghaziabad side-street. Today, there is no trace of the Wagon-R’s whereabouts.
There was also the time when Kejriwal climbed a ladder leaning against a lamp-pole to make a statement on the state of power supply in Delhi. Kejriwal’s gimmicks are designed to be electrifying. Whether they worked or not wasn’t known, but they left a mark on the psyche of the hard-up electorate.
Juxtaposed with AAP freebies, they found currency among voters; at least, the Delhi voter took Kejriwal’s vote-catching gimmicks positively, betting more than once on the man and winning every time much to the disgust of the Bharatiya Janata Party.
So far, in the 10 years since AAP was formed, the BJP hasn’t found a “tod” to Kejriwal’s gimmicks. Of them, the most famed is the Kejriwal auto-driver gimmick. Right from the word ‘go’, the legend was cultivated that auto-drivers and Kejriwal are bosom buddies. In Delhi, AAP-auto has been a winning combination. Come election time, AAP-autos ply all over the city, taking the AAP “poster-boy” to the capital’s nooks and crannies.
A nasty side effect was auto-rickshaw drivers came to believe they owned Delhi with most of them charging as they saw fit. They still think they are the lords of Delhi’s roads, but the arrival of the Delhi Metro flattened things out to a great extent.
But Kejriwal is not the one to dump a poll-winning formula, not as long as there are states to win. So, the auto-driver continues to be in his armoury. The other day in Ahmedabad, when the people of Gujarat thought Kejriwal can’t pull anymore rabbits out his non-existent hat, Kejriwal stumped them by accepting a dinner invitation from an, you guessed it right, auto-rickshaw driver!
Result: Kejriwal and a couple of other AAP leaders dined at the auto-driver’s modest house and the pictures were in every Ahmedabad home the next morning, in time for morning tea. Very few, however, knew that this was a gimmick Kejriwal had perfected in Punjab. The same modus operandi: A meeting with auto-rickshaw drivers and suddenly one of them shouts out a dinner invite and Kejriwal retorts “tonight?” The humble auto-rickshaw driver all but blurts out “Yes Sir, yes Sir…”
Not long ago, Kejriwal won Punjab with the gimmick. September 12, 2022, it was executed with practiced ease in Ahmedabad. In Punjab, it emerged much later, that the “auto-driver”, at whose house Kejriwal had dinner along with Bhagwant Mann, was an AAP functionary, not an auto-driver! Too late! By then, Bhagwant Mann was Chief Minister, and Kejriwal the “Super CM”.
Now, Gujarat has got a taste of the AAP auto-driver dinner date. “Will Gujarat go the Punjab way?” Also, just so that people remembered AAP and Kejriwal on polling day, Kejriwal made sure they had something extra to remember Kejriwal by on their way to the polling booth – a spat with a pair of Ahmedabad cops on an Ahmedabad road, telling the men in uniform what they can do with their security, and how!
Yup, another Kejriwal-patented gimmick. The Delhi Chief Minister’s “off with your security” gimmick is as old as the Wagon-R he dumped after it served a purpose. Like all good politicians, Kejriwal is a master of “use-and-throw”. He has been using and dumping “security” for a decade. Not too long ago, Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia complained that the Centre was playing with Kejriwal’s security. In Ahmedabad, the day before, Kejriwal said “off with your security!”
Vikram Datanni, the Ahmedabad auto-rickshaw driver, at whose house Kejriwal had dinner, knew Kejriwal had used the gimmick in Punjab. In fact, the dinner-date was stage managed. Dantani’s dinner fare was a king’s repast! And the dialogue wasn’t homemade: “I am your fan. In a video I saw on social media, you went to have dinner at the home of an auto driver in Punjab. So, will you come to my home for dinner?” The rest, like they say, is done and digested! (IPA Service)