AAP’s paan-staking crusaders!

The DDA market in Vasundhara Enclave is teeming with activity. Right in the middle of the market there is a large white tent, which is full of volunteers from the Aam Aadmi Party. There is a large metal container which has been turned into a makeshift donation box. This is thrust into the face of anyone who ventures anywhere near the tent. Inside the tent there is a motley crew of characters who are exhorting anyone who walks up to the tent to sign up for the Aam Aadmi Party and eradicate corruption. Listening to them one would be tempted to think that one of the gentlemen in the tent has invented the vaccine for corruption.

The most vociferous amongst them is Anand Rohilla, a senior citizen who has taken pains to come and sit for an hour every day to recruit people for a ‘just cause’. In his own words he is doing a punya ka kaam (good deed).Out of all the people sitting in the tent, he is the only one trying to make sense and appeal to reason (the keyword here is ‘trying’).

He explains why Arvind Kejriwal is a modern day Gandhi. According to him Kejriwal’s crusade will benefit every person on the street. He then energetically points towards the autorickshaw driver on the street and says that if Kejriwal is successful, then he’ll get paid for time spent ferrying a passenger and the distance travelled, unlike now where he just gets paid for the distance travelled. He elaborates by saying that if an
gets stuck in a traffic jam for hours, then even if he is ferrying a passenger for one kilometre, he is losing money. The autowallah looks unenthusiastic at the prospect of earning more money.

After doing his quota of punya for the day, Rohilla or Vasundhara ka ekmatra gandhiwadi (Vasundhara’s sole Gandhian) as he likes to call himself, leaves.

Sitting right underneath Kejriwal’s angry looking picture is Ramashankar. Unlike Kejriwal’s picture, Ramashankar is relaxed. Clad in a crisp white kurta, Ramashankar is the local panwallah who has ambitions of becoming an MLA someday. He is the man most people in the market call ‘Netaji’. He owns Vasundhara Enclave’s version of Prince Paan Bhandaar. In the evening all the smokers of Vasundhara throng to his shop and needless to say the man makes a lot of money. The catch is that his shop is in clear violation of the existing local bylaws. Quizzed about the hypocrisy of a man operating an illegal kiosk being part of an anti-corruption drive, he retorts angrily, ‘who is anyone to decide what is illegal and legal. He says that
Bharat ka Sanwidhaan
(India’s constitution) has given every citizen the right to do any business.

When asked about who the leaders of the Aam Aadmi Party are, he enthusiastically replies, ‘Arvind Kejriwal, Anna Hazare, and Baba Ramdev’. He is promptly corrected by  Sudhir Singh sitting next to him that the latter two are not associated with the Aam Aadmi Party. Looking sheepishly, Ramashankar, says that he does not get the time to read newspapers or watch television since he is a busy businessman. This is a somewhat ironic claim considering that on most days he can be found loitering around and thrashing the occupants of the other illegal kiosks lower down the food chain. Due to this Ramashankar is a regular visitor to the local police station. On the evening of the same day Raman Lal, one of the victims of Ramashankar’s physical prowess, refused to come on record and say anything against Netaji. Sanjay, the magazine seller, implored the reporter not to threaten his livelihood by asking him uncomfortable questions.

Some hours later when Ramashankar is being interviewed again, he is clean shaven and his hair neatly combed. This time around without Arvind Kejriwal’s angry visage looking down on him, Ramashankar was more candid and relaxed.

According to Ramashankar, his occasional misdemeanours, which include seizing the keys of the other kiosks and paying the occasional bribe to MCD, in order to run his shop, does not constitute either moral or economic corruption. ‘Corruption toh woh hota hai jo laakhon karodon ka ho, jisme bhrasht neta karodon ka ghotala karte hai’ (real corruption is that one in which corrupt politicians swindle crores of money).

This sort of moral flexibility is understandable from a man who believes that the constitution of India has given the right to its citizens to do any business as they please.

What is not understandable is that the Aam Aadmi Party, in its drive to recruit as many members as it can, has forgotten to shut the door on the Ramashankars of this world.
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