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Rahul hears a voice, thanks to AAP

New Delhi, Dec. 8: Voters had given it the thumbs-up, but it was a gracious rival who doffed his hat to the Aam Aadmi Party’s success in mobilising an army of workers traditional parties had not involved so far.

“I think the AAP has involved a lot of people who the traditional parties did not involve. We are to learn from that and we are going to do a better job than anybody in the country and involve people in ways that you cannot even imagine right now,” Rahul Gandhi said after the fledgling anti-graft party had stormed the capital to finish a close second.

The message from the Congress vice-president was clear: political parties were “not giving adequate voice to the man on the street” and it was time they did that.

Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP had done just that, mobilising youths, otherwise seen as apolitical, on a scale the established parties couldn’t fathom. The massive door-to-door campaign appeared to have swayed the people.

“The common man has stood up…. The Congress and the BJP are betrayers…. The time has arrived to save the country from them,” said Renuka Dimri, a first-year student of journalism. “I was never interested in politics. But Arvind Kejriwal’s call moved me. Our team went door to door and convinced the people about what the AAP stands for.”

The Delhi show appeared to have whetted Kejriwal’s appetite. “This honest politics will not be limited to Delhi. It will spread to other parts of the country…. People are fed up,” he declared as cadres celebrated outside the party office.

Kejriwal, who inflicted a crushing defeat on three-term chief minister Sheila Dikshit, warned the political class to mend their ways. “This is the beginning of an honest politics…. If they don’t change, the aam aadmi will throw them out.”

The new party, born out of an anti-corruption movement, won 28 of Delhi’s 70 seats and came second in over 20, stunning the Congress and stopping the BJP-led camp at 32, four short of the majority mark of 36.

Cries of “aazadi, aazadi…. Choron se aazadi (freedom from corrupt politicians)”, rose as young men and women waved the broom, the AAP’s election symbol.

In many houses, the young and the women broke ranks and voted for the AAP. “I was a traditional BJP voter but my wife and two children were adamant on voting for the AAP. I could do nothing,” said J.N. Pandey, a resident of a middle-class colony in southeast Delhi.

Women, worried about security after the December 16 gang rape, saw the AAP as an alternative to the Congress and the BJP.

The AAP campaign swayed even slum dwellers. “They told us they had to pay bribes at every step to live in the city,” said AAP volunteer Sundeep Narwani, a computer science engineer from Mumbai.