Come elections and amused suburban railway commuters here, who travel in appalling conditions every day have the pleasure of politicians sharing their trauma for a while.
On Wednesday morning, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader and former Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, decided to take a crowded Churchgate local from Andheri station during the peak hours.
Kejriwal, who flew down to the city, took an auto rickshaw to Andheri station. His vehicle was followed by more than three-dozen other rickshaws carrying AAP supporters in Mumbai, besides a cavalcade of television outdoors broadcasting vans and photographers.
There was chaos at Andheri station as Kejriwal, accompanied by his party’s candidates for the Mumbai parliamentary seats, boarded a second-class compartment. Though AAP workers and television cameramen jostled for space in the compartment, many ordinary commuters also managed to catch a glimpse of the AAP leader.
When the train reached Churchgate, there were huge crowds of AAP workers to receive Kejriwal. Thousands of curious commuters and the media also thronged the station and security forces had a tough time controlling the crowds.
In the melee, many of the AAP workers ran over the metal detectors damaging them. There were some demonstrators as well at the station, flaunting black flags and accusing Kejriwal of manipulating the media.
A video of a post-interview interaction between Kejriwal and a prominent television journalist in a studio — where the AAP leader urges the interviewer to emphasise certain aspects of the interview and underplay others — has gone viral on social media, drawing widespread criticism for the party.
From Churchgate, Kejriwal drove down to Mumbai’s posh commercial district Nariman Point, for a fund-raiser meet with affluent supporters of the parties.
Ten years ago, Bollywood star Govinda, who was given the Congress ticket for the north Mumbai constituency, also used to travel by local trains between Virar and Borivali, to impress commuters.
A few years ago, Rahul Gandhi, the Congress vice-president, also took a suburban train to challenge the Shiv Sena, which had warned him against visiting Mumbai.
Of course, when politicians travel by local trains these days — mainly to impress voters — they add to the inconvenience of daily travel on Mumbai’s suburban railway services. More than six million commuters travel in the local trains daily.
After Kejriwal’s ‘discovery’ of the suburban services on Wednesday, many commuters could be heard complaining about the presence of VIPs and their supporters, which adds misery to their daily commute.
The former Delhi chief minister preferred not to interact with the media in Mumbai on Wednesday. A scheduled news conference at the Press Club was also cancelled.
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