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‘Asli’ Gandhi vs absent Modi

The Aam Aadmi Party has found a Gandhi to take on “Hitler”.

In the warren-like bylanes of Batla House, few would have disputed the analogy. This is the place where September 2008 is still a raw wound.

Rajmohan Gandhi, grandson of the Mahatma, AAP candidate from East Delhi, the “asli” (real) Gandhi, is tapping this sense of hurt. The AAP’s main fight is against the BJP and Narendra Modi.

Arvind Kejriwal’s party sees itself as the only option for Muslim voters because every vote for the Congress, it says, would help bring the BJP closer to power.

“My fight is not against Sandeep Dikshit, neither is my fight against the BJP candidate from here... whoever he is,” Rajmohan, 79, says. “I am here to stand up against Narendra Modi. Poor Congress cannot fight him.”

Dikshit, son of former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit, is the sitting Congress MP from East Delhi.

It was late in the evening on Saturday. Rajmohan had reached Batla House at 9.30pm for his last public meeting of the day and had just been handed the microphone by a party leader with the introduction that at one end of the battle there was “Hitler” while on the other there was Gandhi’s grandson.

It was in Batla House that the Delhi police special cell had shot dead two Indian Mujahideen militants in an encounter in September 2008 that also claimed a special cell inspector.

On March 24, the special cell picked up two men for interrogation, which led to massive protests. The crowd dispersed only after the two were released.

On April 5, Rajmohan addressed one of the biggest fears of residents — illegal detention on false charges. “I am responsible for every youth, every innocent man here. While I am here, if anyone’s son is arrested on false charges, then I cannot call myself grandson of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi,” he said from a makeshift stage.

The crowd burst into applause.

His kurta hung from his frail frame and, despite the loudspeakers, his voice was feeble. “I am the son of Gandhiji’s youngest son. I learnt two things from him. One, this nation does not belong to Hindus alone, it is equally owned by Muslims.

“And the second is, never be afraid of anyone in the world, no matter how powerful the person is. Only be afraid of your own conscience and God,” he told the crowd.

Earlier, even before Rajmohan had taken the stage, someone in the crowd had whispered: “He talks almost like Mahatma Gandhi.”

“The AAP is the first party not to cloak our identity as a ‘minority’, they have openly called us Muslim community in their manifesto,” said Tehzeeb ul Haq, 45, a mechanical engineer and resident of Batla House.

This is Rajmohan’s third stint in politics. During the Emergency, he campaigned for democratic rights through his weekly journal Himmat. In 1989, he fought the Lok Sabha election against Rajiv Gandhi in Amethi. He was Rajya Sabha MP from 1990-92.