Alok has been driving an auto in Delhi for the last twenty years, but today was the first time he attended an auto rally. "All these people are here because of Arvind Kejriwal. I also came for him otherwise I have never attended any auto union rally", he says. Kejriwal was the chief guest at an auto drivers rally-"Auto Chalak-Janta Ekta Andolan" on Tuesday at Delhi's Ramlila Maidan. In the run up to Delhi elections, AAP is tapping into diverse spaces of discontent in Delhi and more and more people are becoming aware of the power of their numbers.“ We are a huge number, if we want we can uproot the party in power”, an auto driver said.
But for a party aiming to capture Delhi in the state elections, giving support to the much maligned auto drivers community is a risky strategy. Middle class public perception is that they cheat, rude and unnecessarily demand a hike. Kejriwal's speech strategically addressed both sides- auto drivers and customers and said the enemy was the “auto mafia”. The first thing he did was ask all of them to pledge they will never be rude with the savari and always ensure their safety, before agreeing their grievances were valid.
He suggested a model where the fare would be decided collectively by an auto drivers community, which will place it before the people who would then discuss it on each municipal ward. This should be done yearly. Alok is not impressed by this. "These are just kehne ke bataain. You cant do away with the government. " He is cynical about the other AAP campaign too- that delhiites should stop paying water and electricity bills. Yet, talk about the Delhi elections and he says he will vote for AAP.
The other suggestions were linking meter to time taken and having fixed working hours. Corruption between the police, auto mafia and government was spoken about. “ If you give your customers respect and love they will not mind a hike. We have to change the system”, Kejriwal said.
The rally was one of its first kind in Delhi, Rajpal, an auto driver explained. Usually there are too many differences between the 40 odd auto unions. The presence of AAP gave them a sense of dignity, someone was trying to understand them beyond the stereotype of the cheating and rude Delhi auto driver. As an auto driver said on stage, “ We work hard but our work is never recognized as 'mehnat'”. It was this dignity the rally gave them. And in return, AAP enrolled 400 new members from the venue.