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Hard-selling the Gandhi name

Sunday, 23 March 2014 - 9:20am IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: dna

  • AAP’s Rajmohan Gandhi (kurta) Mahatma’s grandson campaigning in East Delhi from where he is contesting Manit dna

It was around 1.30pm on Saturday, and it was really hot, but the 79-year-old grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, Rajmohan Gandhi, kept braving heat, traffic and open drains in the concrete jungle of east Delhi seeking support for himself and his party.

Even before the man with a golden Gandhi lineage stepped out of his Wagon R car to start canvassing in the Muslim-dominated Khureji area, AAP volunteers and supporters had announced his arrival to evoke interest among the locals.

The septuagenarian slowly started making his way through the congested bylanes, largely inhabited by Muslims from western Uttar Pradesh, who are mostly craftsmen, carpet weavers, tailors, mechanics, etc.

The group of volunteers donning AAP caps evoked interest among the locals who till then were unaware of the credentials of the tall, elderly man. But within minutes as volunteers spread the word about the man from the "real Gandhi family", crowd started gathering and people began shaking hands with the leader.

A smiling Rajmohan met people, put AAP caps on the heads of whosoever was willing, and then sat in a corner near a shop to talk with the group rather than having a "hi and bye" meeting. And people were excited to meet the "Gandhi grandson" and pledge him their support.

An interesting moment was when the soft-spoken AAP leader started telling them about himself—his writing, education, credentials. And unlike usual politicians, Rajmohan spoke very softly and kept quiet whenever people began to speak, hearing them out patiently.

To a query regarding the Gandhi family, he said he was from the real Gandhi family, and added that the Gandhi family of the Congress was not real Gandhis'.

Rather than trying to build on Arvind Kejriwal's work, AAP volunteers were seen hard-selling the Gandhi lineage of Rajmohan. And they were succeeding, as there were several instances when people brought their children to meet the man who is the grandson of the Mahatma. On one occasion, some locals expressed unhappiness about Kejriwal and the AAP, but promised to vote for him.

And children, who have no idea about politics, seemed happy to meet the elderly leader. Many people could also be seen having their pictures clicked with him.

Ashok Gupta, who was coming back with his daughter Mansi from the nearby school, introduced her to Rajmohan, who blessed her. "I wanted her to meet Rajmohanji … it was a rare chance for a common man like me to be so close to the man whose grandfather got independence for the country," Gupta told dna.

Rajmohan is also aware of the mileage his surname is drawing. "I know the effect of my surname and I am grateful for that. But I am also seeking votes in AAP's name, in the name of the work that has been done by AAP government and in its policies," he told dna.

He also reiterated that he had never ever compared Kejriwal with his grandfather, but had only said Kejriwal's conviction and determination to fight corruption had reminded him of his grandfather.

He and his entourage then moved to Krishna Nagar's Lal Quarter market area, which was buzzing with shoppers. After quietly parking the car, Rajmohan moved with ease among people, talking to them, listening to their grouses and accepting their greetings. On one occasion, the smiling candidate heard out another senior citizen, who ranted against the AAP, for over 10 minutes. Rajmohan then shook hands with him and sought his support.

The area largely dominated by traders and the middle class is currently represented by BJP MLA Dr Harshvardhan. But, just like his grandfather, Rajmohan didn't shy away from entering a hostile area. He spent around 45 minutes there and left around 3.30pm for his local office as he had to prepare for two meetings in the evening, including one in the same area, which he was scheduled to address along with Manish Sisodia.

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