While most TV channels were busy with the coverage of BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s rally held at the historic SP College grounds in Pune, they missed another significant rally, that of the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) Yogendra Yadav, who had come to Pune in support of the party’s Lok Sabha candidate Subhash Ware.
Traffic was diverted all over Pune, and the city was completely clogged in the wake of the massive crowd expected at Narendra Modi’s rally that was just a couple of kilometres away from the banks of the Mula Mutha river near the Pune Corporation, where the AAP rally was held.
The rally could not be called a massive show of strength or a grand success compared the rallies of main political parties like the Congress and the BJP, but it was quite an interesting revelation. The core of the AAP workers in Pune were made up of professors, teachers, librarians, students activists, documentary film makers, FTII students and others.
I interacted with two young men who were diligently distributing AAP caps to the people, and found that both were lecturers in leading colleges. Pune has always had a rich history of activism, and for many years most activists had not been a part of any political movement. Now, it appears that most of them have found their motivation in the AAP.
The crowd that had turned up on the river banks could be considered decent for a debutant political party. Most members that attended the rally were from diverse ethnicities and were a healthy mix of the young and old. The crux of the volunteers were young men who worked pro bono for the party, and looked like a dedicated group.
The star speaker of the evening was Yogendra Yadav, who spoke in his trademark style in all calmness to an apt audience despite the distraction from the members of the other political rally, who honked provocatively as they drove to the other side of the river banks waving flags. Yadav expressed his regret about the manner in which the Arvind Kejriwal government resigned, especially the timing, and said it could have been handled better. He candidly accepted the AAP political inexperience as partly responsible for the events leading to the resignation.
Apart from Yadav, the other prominent speakers were the AAP candidate from Pune constituency Subhash Ware, and former IPS officer Suresh Khopde, the AAP candidate from the prestigious Baramati constituency, from which Sharad Pawar is also contesting. Khopde has won many awards and is renowned for pioneering the concept of community policing, also known as Mohallah Committee, in Malegaon.
Among the many topics raised by the speakers, perhaps it was only the AAP in Pune that raised the issue of the assassination of social activist Narendra Dabholkar, and the inability of the Maharashtra police to nab his killers. This resulted in huge applause from the audience.
If one looks at the AAP’s chances of electoral success in the elections in Pune from a realistic point of view, it stands no real chance, nor is it any threat to the main national political parties. It will be a decent achievement if the AAP manages to get the third spot, pushing Raj Thackeray’s MNS to the fourth.
Yet for a new political entity that never had any presence in the city to have caught the attention and support of the prominent intellectuals, theatre personalities, artists and members of other intelligentsia in a culturally rich city like Pune that has a history of activism is an achievement in itself and speaks well for the party in future.
Sameer Khan is an independent writer, playwright and author. He tweets at @Samkhan999.