If you talk to any street vendor, a fruit seller or a tea stall owner in Delhi, you'll immediately realise why the 'aam admi', the man on the street, so identifies himself with the Aam Admi Party (AAP) and, despite the flak it has been facing for the heretical conduct of the chief minister and the capriciousness of his ministers, continues to support Arvind Kejriwal and his newbie party. In fact, his constituency is only growing, not just in Delhi, but across the country with his party's membership having crossed the 10 million mark in less than a month.
Kejriwal's halo may have dimmed somewhat in the eyes of a section of the intellectual and middle classes, but he and his radical band of we-will-change-the-world activist-politicians continue to be the voice of hope and salvation for millions of oppressed Indians, living on the margins of an expanding urban India, where the interests and privileges of the upwardly mobile are often at odds with the needs and aspirations of the subaltern sections.
A taxi driver told me how Kejriwal's unorthodox anti-corruption tools were already showing results with policemen turning down gratification for fear of being trapped on mobile stings and touts disappearing from the precints of the state transport authorities, where they have for years enjoyed a cosy arrangement with the babus dealing with driving and other automobile licences. Kejriwal's methods may not be on any governance manual, but some of these seem to be working - although as Kejriwal himself says he has no empirical study to prove that corruption is down.
People who have always been at the butt end of the policman's lathi or the babu's harassment at last see in him a champion of their cause, who empathises with them and is ready to walk the talk in their support. These are the auto- rickshaw driver, the street vendor, the office peon and other low-skill workforce and services people who were finding themselves slowly being squeezed out of a flagging economy, whose meagre fruits were being plucked by the privileged and the powerful, leaving large sections at the mercy of an exploitative and callous system that, other than their vote, gave them little voice or hearing and more often than not deprived them of things that should be their civic or constitutional right.
And it is this constituency in which Kejirwal has cleverly tapped into, focussed on the implementation of some of his lofty promises and has been drawing both his political strength and intellectual self-assurance from. And it is on the assured foundation of this constituency that Kejriwal plans to expand his political base and take a shot at the national platform, realising cleverly that unless he is able to influence the legislative agenda of the nation and has a hand in its formulation, his efforts would be in vain.