The day starts early for Aam Aadmi Party's Ashutosh, contesting the Chandni Chowk constituency for the 16th Lok Sabha election. The news anchor-turned politician is busy campaigning for the seat, which was represented by Congress' Kapil Sibal in the 15th Lok Sabha.
At 6.30am on Friday, Ashutosh, donning an AAP cap and dressed in casual attire, alongwith local MLA Akhilesh Mani Tripathi and several AAP volunteers went to a park in New Delhi's Model Town. A flurry of early morning walkers, joggers and yoga enthusiasts turn their attention to the AAP group at the gate. A few shook hands with the 48-year-old, native of Gounda in Uttar Pradesh. Before long, a crowd gathered around him and questions about AAP's philosophy began to fly. Having answered the questions, Ashutosh, who now lives in Noida, energetically walked through the park, meeting women, youngsters, retired officials and businessmen, all along seeking their votes and discussing AAP's chances.
At one point, a group of senior citizens grilled him about Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi government's resignation. Using a mix of tact and persuasion and some help from Tripathi, Ashutosh was able to convince the seniors about the AAP government's decision. While most people greeted Ashutosh during his 45-minutes at the park, there were also some who dismissed his presence and just walked past.
The group then moved to another park in Model Town. Here they met a retired CBI officer, JR Arora, who vociferously expressed his displeasure with AAP's performance. Before Arora's statements set the tone for a heated conversation with others in the park, Ashutosh and the AAP volunteers doused his anger. The conversation was soon joined by others and ended happily for him after they convinced the retired official and left with his blessing.
"People are angry and are seeking answers to questions like why AAP led Delhi government had to resign or on the issue of subsidy… but they are still with AAP and they want to talk to us to understand our position," Ashutosh told dna. "This is a common occurrence. I have experienced this often in my days of campaigning. We are addressing the people's queries."
Another 45 minutes were spent walking around the park, greeting people and seeking their support. As the group left, they stopped outside the park, to interact with rickshaw pullers, fruit sellers, flower sellers and local shopkeepers. AAP volunteers said that meeting these people gave AAP a peek into the minds of people from across castes and class.
The team then headed to the Shakti Nagar slum cluster, which has turned out to be an AAP supporter in the last few months. Ashutosh and local MLA Tripathi made their way though a narrow bylane into a jhuggi cluster, where residents were excited to meet a person they would otherwise see on television.
Ashutosh and Tripathi went inside the densely-populated jhuggis and sat with locals to listen to their complaints — mostly about water, electricity and sewage. The locals were thrilled to have the two leaders amidst their slums, which other party leaders skipped on their campaign trail for fear of dirtying themselves. Through the hour-and-a-half that Ashutosh spent in Shakti Nagar, his volunteers took copious notes on the issues raised by the locals even as Tripathi signed some applications.
After nearly three-and-half hours after he started canvassing, Ashutosh finally retired to his local office to prepare to file his nomination in the afternoon.