New Delhi: It is a little over 9.30 a.m. on a hot, humid Wednesday morning in old Delhi's Chandni Chowk area which is already humming with activity -- and awaiting a politically tumultuous day ahead with balloting just a week away.
Chandni Chowk, the old "silver street" of the Mughal era that leads down from the majestic Red Fort and is now a centre of commerce, particularly of the wholesale business in every merchandise that one can think of, is witnessing one of the most interesting fights this poll season with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) fielding former TV anchor Ashutosh against Congress's two-time winning candidate Kapil Sibal, union minister, and the Bharatiya Janata Party's Harsh Vardhan, who was the chief ministerial nominee for the party in the recent Delhi assembly elections.
Despite the crowd and torrid heat, the election fervour is hard to miss, with auto rickshaws displaying posters of Sibal and Ashutosh, and the trademark AAP caps visible even from a distance.
As the clock strikes 10, AAP workers slowly emerge on motorcycles and on foot, waving flags and banner with Ashutosh's picture along with party leader Arvind Kejriwal. All of them assembled at Turkman Gate, one of the surviving gates of the erstwhile Walled City, and then marched to Minto Road (Bhavbhuti Marg), a neighbourhood of government employees.
The banners boldly stated: "Phir Chalegi Jhaadoo" (the magic of the broom [the party's symbol] will return to power).
This scene was a precursor to Ashutosh's roadshow, scheduled for the day. The area also saw a roadshow by Harsh Vardhan, later followed by Sibal's walkabout.
"I am all geared up for the rally and have been waiting here for Ashutosh since 9 a.m.," Ramjilal Jha, an auto-rickshaw driver, told IANS.
Flaunting the party's cap, 38-year-old Jha smilingly added that waiting for his leader is no big issue, come rain or shine.
"I will follow Ashutosh wherever he goes today. I have taken special permission from the Election Commission to distribute the party's pamphlet also," he added, while pasting a poster of the leader on his auto-rickshaw.
Jha was joined by various other supporters, many of them Muslims, wearing skull caps. Some of them even urged curious passers-by to vote for the AAP, which governed Delhi for 49 days earlier this year.