My Dear Arvind

Dear Arvind,

I am one of your NRI supporters and have supported the movement since IAC days. I have no qualms in admitting that my contributions to the party have been minuscule in comparison to the thousands of AAP volunteers who fight on the ground for a better India. But I still want to write to you today because I believe that we are an extended family at AAP and everyone’s opinion counts.

I have stood by you and AAP through thick and thin. Be it fake strings, Somnath Bharti, dharna, resignation, LS Debacle, YY/PB leaving, suicide at rally, attacks on Modi, DDCA, surgical strike, demonetization, Shunglu report and so on. Nothing has dithered my belief in you or AAP. And again, I want to point out that sitting 1000s of miles away, I am doing you no favor. The only reason I support you is because you are the only one who ignited a sense of hope in me. You are the only one who made me believe that a corruption free India is possible. You are the only one who I can trust as a leader for India. If I were to ever return to India, I would like to vote for an honest and clean political party and none of the other parties offer me that option. I do not adhere to BJP’s ideology and I do not want to fallback on INC due to lack of options. Hence, AAP’s presence is important for me and in my opinion, it’s vital for India as well.

So why do I write to you today? It’s not because we have lost and I want to sit in my living room and blame you, Sanjay Singh, Dillip Pandey etc. I think all of you are wonderful people and have the correct intentions and the vision to take the party forward. I am just writing to you because I feel some of you (as leaders) and also some of our volunteers may be losing our connect with the people. The issue is not that we are losing. We all know (or have learnt along the way) that politics is extremely difficult; the powers that be, have done and will continue to do everything to stop the rise of the Aam Aadmi. But the issue seems to be that we are under the impression that people are happy with us and that we are winning comfortably.

I remember in 2014 LS elections, even AAP volunteers knew that we were not winning more than 10 seats. Some of the most optimistic expectations were 20-30. Since then we should only have learnt and matured as a political organization but instead we are losing our connect with the people. We are not able to see or maybe do not want to see that people are not connecting with us as much as 2013/2015. People connected with anti-corruption initially. Then they connected with 5 Saal Kejriwal and Delhi Dialogues and the hope that we offered. But what now? They do not have anything to relate to. Most of our supporters were never anti-Modi. If anything, they were anti-Congress, so our fight against Modi is getting us nowhere.

Don’t get me wrong here – I don’t think we should stop raising questions against Modi. I still feel Demonetization was a disaster. I can barely see achievements of Modi government after 3 years other than creating some buzzwords and getting people all excited. But people are content with Modi because they do not want to go back to the Congress and they see no other alternative. We need to provide them that alternative, both politically and also in terms of governance.

Unfortunately Delhi with its multitude of authorities, is the worst state to showcase governance. But I am impressed with what we have achieved in Delhi in just 2 years. However, are the people even aware of what we have done or are doing? Probably not because every other day we are in the news for the political side of things. The problem is that politics sells and gets way more media coverage than governance. The perception is that you are always fighting, that you are leaving Delhi for campaigning in other states, that you are having lavish thaalis at the expense of the exchequer. Media does not and will not cover the work done in the sectors of education, health and water. And I am sorry Arvind, let’s stop harping about electricity rates as an achievement. Sure we provide a subsidy and it benefits people but it took you a day to pass that decision in the cabinet – we have been in government for 2 years. We have done a lot of others things – people need to be told about that – they are aware of the bills they are having to pay!

And then the battle against EVMs. Do I completely trust EVMs? No. But it’s all about the timing and credibility. Tomorrow you may even do a press conference and present hundreds of documents to prove tampering in EVMs, but other than your core supporters, no one will trust you. They trusted you during IAC days when you labelled 15 ministers as corrupt but they will not trust you anymore unless you can prove yourself in the courts. Yes, if you and others have seen evidence of tampering then that battle needs to be fought. But it needs to be fought in a smart way. If you cannot convince majority of your volunteers, then forget about convincing the neutral voter. Especially after the hit and run image that you face. So you have to fight the EVM battle separately and bring it up either in courts or when we win an election or when the perception is in favor of you.

I do not even know why I am writing all this to you. You are much more politically shrewd than I am but unfortunately the headlines after MCD results are again reading – “AAP leaders blame EVMs for results”. It will not work Arvind. I would love it if it does because I want us to bounce back quick and showcase our governance. But as I said, when you cannot fully convince me, I know your haters well – they will mock you day in and day out. I may still support your fight against EVMs because AAP is the only alternative but my heart will not be fully behind it – not after we have lost.

So what can we do? Again, you know better but I think you need to divide responsibilities between party and government. Kumar Vishwas along with other leaders should lead the party activities across the country. You should occasionally play the political cards, but other than that, focus on Delhi until 2019. And this is an absolute must for all AAP MLAs and ministers. They should not be campaigning in other states – just work, work and work in Delhi! If LG does not allow you to work, work on the areas where even the LG cannot do much. At some point people will understand if LG’s office starts blocking all good initiatives. And most importantly, maintain the connect with people of Delhi. Let them know about what work is being done. Not just Bijli-Paani rates – that was done long back – what’s new? We will have to connect with people on a day to day basis like the 2015 campaign times.

Arvind, I have still not had the privilege to vote for Aam Aadmi Party. I really want to do that one day and for that we must keep up the fight. I read once that you fight back best when you are pushed into a corner – well I do not know if a Delhi CM can ever be “in a corner” but I guess after Punjab and MCD results, it is as close as it can get.

I will be there with you through this journey. If it ends, I will lose all my hope and interest in politics. But I know we have thousands of selfless volunteers who will not let it end so easily. And hey, the Punjab results and MCD results have only increased our numbers from 0. Even during our bad times, we are growing 🙂

Lots of love,

Your soldier from afar,

Vishal Anand

Punjab 2017 for AAP: It’s a comma, not a full-stop

The Delhi 2013 elections were perhaps the most exciting elections in the life of most AAP supporters. For many of us, they were the first elections that we had followed in our lives. We celebrated the victory and believed that we had arrived and change was finally here. However, we soon realized that politics is ugly and bringing change was not going to be so easy.

The 2014 debacle followed soon after. I wrote then that despite the loss we had gained a lot. We gained vote share in Delhi, we got a second state in Punjab and even in Varanasi we gathered 2 lakh votes and showed that we had it in us to fight the big battles. But there was definitely gloom all around. I remember how disappointed I was that day – even 3-4 seats (out of 7) in Delhi may have been good enough to change the mood but that 0 was disappointing. The media had already written our obituary. But as Kumar Vishwas tells us later, after a depressing conversation he had with Arvind regarding the 2014 results, Arvind ended it by saying “Sirji, ishwar hai, hum satya ke saath hai, hum ladayi ladenge, hum jeetenge”.

Arvind along with all AAP volunteers fought back and how! The Delhi 2015 result was due to the hard work put in by all the leaders and the volunteers. No one predicted the magnitude of that victory. It was the first big loss for Narendra Modi after 2014 and it showed everyone that AAP was still a force to reckon with. AAP supporters rejoiced for a few days but in a matter of weeks we were hit again by an internal feud.

And now here we are. After the roller-coaster ride of the last 4 years, AAP is once again at a low due to this defeat in Punjab. By all conventional standards, this is a brilliant performance by a debutant. To become the second largest party and push SAD-BJP to 3rd position is no small feat. We fought a valiant battle but were let down by our own high expectations. Since AAP has emerged from a movement and most of it’s leaders have been activists, we do not look at politics in the traditional sense. We do not fight “the first election to lose, the second to defeat and the third to win”. We fight to win and win big. Delhi 2013 and 2015 have set the bar so high that it just became impossible to live up to the expectations in Punjab.

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There is a lot to introspect when it comes to Punjab. It starts from the way YY/PB were kicked out to how the Punjab state leadership was dealt with. Questions will be asked on whether Sanjay Singh and Durgesh Pathak knew what they were doing and were giving the right picture to Arvind Kejriwal. Arvind himself has to introspect on how much anti-Modi is acceptable. Modi is no saint and deserves to be opposed but people get tired of the same language day in day out. People will vote for change but change is not limited to bringing down Modi. The result of UP shows that Modi is too tall a leader to be challenged in this manner. The worst part about this loss in Punjab is that we do not have a full state to showcase our work.

Having said that, all is not lost. We have a government in a state with 67/70 seats. We will be leaders of opposition in Punjab with 24% vote share. We will have 6+% vote share in Goa. We have Lok Sabha MPs and will have Rajya Sabha MPs in 2018. MCD elections are coming up and despite Punjab, we should still be able to do well. Gujarat and other states in 2018 are awaiting us if we chose to fight them and provide a vision for change and development. People still look up to us as the principle opposition to the BJP and Modi; Congress is nowhere close to revival. We are still performing relatively well in Delhi despite all odds.

And dear Arvind, I still trust you. I know it’s not easy to be Arvind Kejriwal in today’s India. You get a lot of hate. But I assure you that you have supporters like me who love you to death. Some people may call it blind faith but to me politics needs you to pick a side. You can’t sit on the outside and praise and criticize every leader/party. Sure, one should have the spirit to correct one’s own leader but when you have an elected leader, you have to stand by him in the fight. And Arvind, I am with you! संघर्ष जारी रहेगा|

Ghayal Once Again: Give it a chance!

When I woke up today morning my mind was tinkering with the idea of watching Ghayal Once Again or giving it a pass and going for some good Hollywood movie instead. I have to confess I am a Sunny Deol fan and ever since his last movie ‘I love NY’ (which I would recommend), I had been waiting for Ghayal. But what confused me and threw me off were the review headlines I came across in the last day or so. Nevertheless, reviews have never stopped me from watching a movie and it was the same case this time around; I decided to give Sunny Deol’s Ghayal Once Again a chance.

Sunny Deol during promotions has been on a spree claiming that this is a modern story, a story which will connect to the youth, a story which puts the character of Ajay Mehra in 2015. But I had my apprehensions. My apprehensions were driven from the fact that from the get go Ghayal Once Again was always going to be the story of one man beating all odds to defeat the most powerful man in India, which is a very 90s concept. Yet I was pleasantly surprised to realize that this tried and tested formula put into a modern setting can still work if presented properly.

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The best part of Ghayal is that it does not pretend to be what it isn’t. It promises to be an action movie and it delivers on that front. There is some excellent comedy in the form of Kaka Saab’s character (played by Manoj Joshi). There is compassion/love in the relationship between Ajay Mehra and Rhea (played by Soha Ali Khan). But all of these aspects are woven into the story telling so effortlessly and beautifully by Sunny Deol the director that it does not distract the viewer. At a brisk 2hrs and 6mins, Sunny manages to keep the focus on the action packed screenplay.

The action itself is just so real and watchable. This is a surprise because for a while the Hindi movie industry has been unable to put together some good action sequences, forget a full length movie. Perhaps it was apt that the king of action in the 90s has brought back the genre once again. Barring a couple of scenes where you see the typical inexplicable scenes of bravado, the rest of the action is very slick and believable. The brisk chase sequence leading up to the intermission is so wonderfully executed that the intermission serves as a damper. That it picks up after the intermission at the same brisk pace makes you wonder whether the intermission was needed at all and whether we will be able to do away with it some day.

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Sunny Deol brings life to the Ajay Mehra of 2015. Throughout the movie, I was expecting and almost yearning for an explosion by Sunny Deol but there is a sense of calm that he portrays on screen. I do not remember the original Ghayal too well but the Ajay Mehra of 2015 has his set of weaknesses and Sunny emotes them rather well. And when it comes to action – he is the best! It is a pity that we do not get to see more of him these days.

The kids do a good job and impress with their acting skills. I wonder why we do not have more teenage oriented stories being made. Indian TV has some really good young actors (three of whom were in this movie) and they could do a good job if given more opportunities. Hopefully this movie brings about a change in that regard and we get to see some more stories involving teenage characters. Coming back to the performances, Manoj Joshi is fantastic as the corrupt politician and will definitely make you laugh. Soha Ali Khan, Narendra Jha and Tisca Chopra are all decent.

In the end, I do have to admit that the movie has it’s flaws and is not perfect. Some more texture and layers to the characters would have helped give it the killer punch. More impactful songs could have also helped in giving it the final touch. Despite its drawbacks, I would still recommend it for Sunny Deol’s hard work as an actor, writer, director and producer.

2.5 + an extra .5 for the fast paced screenplay and action – 3 stars!

Talvar: Justice, where are you?

I walked into the theater today knowing fully well what to expect. I knew most of the evidences and arguments related to the case, primarily through the media debates around the time of conviction and also through a number of articles that I read. I expected to walk out of the theater feeling dejected and angered at the media trial, the shoddy investigations and the verdict. There was all of that but the movie also left me with a quirky smile on my face. I am yet to figure out if I was, and still am, smiling at the dark humor in the movie or just the travesty of it all.

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We all have our prejudices in life. I would be surprised if there is anyone who would disagree. After all we are all a product of our experiences and often life experiences tend to sway our perception to one extreme or the other. I would hold myself guilty of believing in lot many things without actually examining the evidence. For example, if Arvind Kejriwal does a press conference tomorrow and says that Mr. X is guilty then I would probably presume his guilt even before the matter goes to the court. BUT the problem becomes glaring if and when the investigation agencies and courts are prejudiced. Unfortunately, this is what I fear happened in the 2008 Noida double murder case.

Now before you turn around and ask me “Who are you to pass a judgement when the ‘honorable’ court has convicted the Talwars?”, I would like to clarify that I am just an individual fully capable of using my own brains to come to a conclusion. The only difference between me and someone who believes that the Talwars are guilty is that I do not have a court judgement to fallback on but that does not change anything. Yes, as per the law of the land, the Talwars murdered their daughter and Hemraj and I cannot do anything about it. But I am yet to hear about one piece of evidence, circumstantial evidence aside, which proves beyond reasonable doubt that the parents slit their daughter’s throat that unfortunate night. Honestly, I will be a much happier person if I see that evidence and convince myself that justice has been delivered so please do let me know if you are privy to any such evidence.

I do not want to make this one long rant about the injustice but I do want to raise one point regarding the state of the police in our country. Two days ago I saw a Ravish Kumar report from Dadri where a man was murdered for rumors that there was beef in his fridge. Ravish was shown around the house and the room which still had blood stains and fingerprints. There were clothes full of blood lying around. More than once, Ravish told the other people around to not touch the spots where there might be some fingerprints as it will be useful for investigations. The cops were there too. They were sitting outside the house playing cards if I am not mistaken. The UP Police probably felt their job was done once they had confiscated the meat from the fridge and sent it for forensics. It was a similar scene 7 years back in the Talwar house. So what I want to ask is does the Indian police know what cordoning of the crime scene means? Does the police know that their job is to investigate and present facts and not to fabricate theories? Does the police have the independence, the resources and the will to conduct a thorough investigation? If the answer to anyone of these questions is no, then it’s worrisome.

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Coming back to the movie Talvar, I would recommend it to anyone who wants to watch a good investigative thriller. I enjoyed it for the dark humor and some really fine acting performances. Watch out for the scene near the end in which both sides discuss the merits of the evidence they have. You will find yourself laughing no matter how serious the matter may seem. Irrfan holds the film together from start to finish and I cannot think of anyone better to have played the role. In fact everyone from the elaborate cast has done a fine job and delivered some memorable performances. After you watch it, do sit back and remind yourself that what you saw is for the most part what unfolded in the past 7 years.

I do hope that at least everyone reading this blog tries to do their own small investigation and think about the case without any preconceived notions or theories. Justice may be delayed or denied in the courts but at least everyone who dares to call them guilty must know about the case in detail and not just what they have heard from others. Watch the movie. Read Avirook Sen’s book Aarushi. Read a few articles (will keep linking a few below). Watch some TV debates. And just think about it.

I would like to leave you all with this recent tweet by Shree Paradkar (Nupur Talwar’s cousin).

A few links (will keep adding more):

Crisis situations: they look daunting at the time, but are they?

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “In a Crisis.”

One look at the prompt and I started thinking of how I react when I am in a crisis. But then I took a pause, and tried to think of the various “crisis” situations I have had to face. It turns out that all I could think of were situations in which I had an assignment due the next day and I had not started. Or when I walked into an exam unprepared. Or maybe when I was not able to meet my due date and I had to face my professor/manager….

I realized that all these so called crisis situations in our lives seem less daunting with the passage of time. It is only when you are in that moment, and you are not sure how you will get out of it, that you feel burdened with the task at hand. After a few months or years when you look back, you just laugh it off or feel rather indifferent about it.

One of the best pieces of life advice is to “live in the moment” but does that advice really work in “crisis” situations? I am not so sure. If you are living in the moment when in a difficult situation, it’s very easy to get all worked up because you are surrounded by a bunch of negative thoughts. What will happen if I fail this exam? What will happen if I miss this due date? What will happen….?

Well for starters you could fail the class or lose your job but will that be the end of the journey? It is vital to have confidence in yourself at such moments and realize that it is not your last chance! There is always another chance or a better opportunity around the corner. If not, you are always capable of creating one if you are in the right frame of mind.

I know those reading might be thinking that it’s much easier to advice than to actually follow it yourself. And I agree. But if I look back at my 4 years in college, I honestly feel I started to handle the “crisis” situations much better in the last 2 years and it was only because I was in the right frame of mind. In fact, I had started saying “It will be fine. Always does.” Of course there were many a times when I would freak out and get very nervous about a situation but then you just have to look back at your past experiences and tell yourself that this is not something new. You have fought through these moments before, and you will do so again.

Of course people may have actually faced much bigger crisis moments than me, but I am sure even they will agree that if you look back, they seem like a part and parcel of life. Nothing more. Nothing less. Just a small part of the journey. So we should treat them exactly like that.

Dil Dhadakne Do: Board this cruise with the Mehra family!

It’s very rare ( especially in Bollywood) that you walk into the theater to watch a director’s work. Zoya is an exception though because she has shown with both Luck By Chance and ZNMD that she is a class apart when it comes to direction and is an excellent storyteller. So I had to go watch Dil Dhadakne Do and I am glad I chose to.

Dil Dhadakne Do is a treat to watch. The Mehra family is a bundle of conflicts and Zoya portrays those conflicts with such ease and conviction. Some of the scenes in the film, especially the ones with all the Mehra family members together, are cinema of the highest quality. The witty comic scenes in particular, are extraordinary and match up to ZNMD standards. The dialogues penned by Farhan go a long way in making the film entertaining and helping Zoya depict such complex characters and relationships on screen.

When you have a top notch director and such an elaborate star cast, there are bound to be some amazing performances. Almost everyone in the film (including the very fine supporting actors) put up a good show but Shefali Shah and Ranveer Singh just steal the show. Shefali is a fabulous actor and she is perfect for the role of Neelam Mehra. Hopefully, this film marks a new beginning for her and she gets a lot more meaty roles in future.

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Coming to Ranveer, how much has this guy grown as an actor over the last few years? He started off well with Band Baaja Baarat but he has reached another level with DDD. He holds the film together from start to finish and his interactions with his parents are some of the highlights of the film.

A couple of days ago I was thinking that for the sake of drawing a comparison, Ranbir is potentially the next Aamir and Varun Dhawan the next Salman. While I do not see any traits of Shahrukh in Ranveer, I am sure he is going to keep doing some great work and I am really looking forward to it.

Coming back to the film, my only complain is that it was probably 15-20 minutes too long. It’s tough to say for sure because I am not able to point out any unnecessary track or scenes. Having said that, it’s the director’s job to find a way to make it shorter and I am sure Zoya must have given it a thought and would have had her own reasons to keep it at 2h50mins. The songs are another aspect which could have been slightly better but the beautiful locations and the dance performances more than make up for it.

Overall, I would say everyone should book their tickets to board this cruise with the Mehra family and their friends, and explore a world full of conflicts, hypocrisies, intricacies and complex relationships. Keep an eye out for those special moments that the Mehras’ create on screen because those are the ones you would like to revisit some other day. I surely will.

Sirf aur Sirf AAP ki Dilli :)

Wave. Tsunami. Juggernaut. These are the kind of words that political pundits and journalists have been associating with the duo of Modi and Amit Shah for the last many months. Today, with 54% vote share and 95% seats, a certain Arvind Kejriwal has put a halt to this wave, tsunami or juggernaut. As I write this piece, the analysis of this election is going on and Rajdeep Sardesai is still hellbent on proving that there is a class divide in Delhi. Rahul Kanwal will keep reminding his viewers of the ‘Dharna’ politics. Chetan Bhagat, after cheering for Modi for so many months, is now saying that this is a vote against Modi. All of this will keep going on for a few days but the fact of the matter is that 67/70 has been summed up best by Kiran Bedi – “Full Marks”.

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I started following politics around 4 years ago with the Anna movement. When the Aam Aadmi Party was officially launched on November 26, 2012, I had no doubt about where my political preference lay. But briefly in 2013, after a speech by Narendra Modi at SRCC, I was one of those who believed in “Arvind for CM, Modi for PM”, but I soon realized that beyond the brilliant speeches was the same old BJP and it would be difficult for Modi to deliver on any of his promises with the team he has. The choice was between “Congress Mukt Bharat” and “Corruption Mukt Bharat”. I preferred the latter.

It has been a long journey for all AAP supporters, donors and especially the ground volunteers. In the 2013 elections, an underestimation in the opinion polls and some fake stings stopped us from becoming the single largest party and winning Delhi. On that day there was a lot of joy and all the AAP loyalists could go and tell their friends, “Told you so.” In the 2014 elections, there was disappointment all around in the AAP camp but it gave us a second state and also consolidated our vote share in Delhi. And now 2015 goes beyond all the expectations. There is relief. There is fear. There is happiness. And then there are those tears of joy.

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Aam Aadmi Party is like a startup. Perhaps one of the most difficult startups possible as Indian politics is not an easy place to grow in. Yet this startup has completely shaken up Indian politics in the last 2 years and the only reason for this success is the AAP volunteer. They have left their jobs. They have left their dreams of IAS/IFS. They have made many sacrifices and put in hours and hours on the ground to campaign. A positive campaign backed by the Delhi Dialogues and a strong 70 point manifesto is the reason why the people of Delhi have shown this faith in us.

Now it is time to deliver. After watching a Ravish Kumar program a few days back I realized that the problems in Delhi are immense and to make Delhi the world-class city that all parties have promised, all MLAs, all MPs, the MCD, the central government and the people of Delhi will have to work together. Delivering on the promises is going to be tough but possible. And once we start delivering, Western UP, Punjab, Mumbai and other places will await us with open arms. The political revolution has reached its second stage with AAP 2.0.

Wanted to write an emotional piece on this victory but ended up just blabbering. To end this blog, I would just like to thank Arvind Kejriwal for leading us like a champion. I would like to thank Kumar Vishwas for always being by Arvind’s side and motivating us with some brilliant speeches and poems. I would like to thank Ashish Khetan, Adarsh Shastri, Meera Sanyal and their team for the work they put into Delhi Dialogues. I would like to thank Ashutosh for heading the Delhi AAP unit and doing an excellent job. I would like to thank Raghav Chadda, Atishi and all other AAP spokesperson for facing the media which has often been exceedingly critical of this new style of politics. I would like to thank Vishal Dadlani for 5 Saal Kejriwal. I would like to thank Gul Panag and Raghu Ram for standing by our cause despite the Lok Sabha results. I would like to thank Ankit Lal and the whole social media team of AAP for always being on top of the game and giving us our beloved #MufflerMan!

And most of all I would like to thank all the ground volunteers. Without you this win would not have been possible. And this image of the volunteers cleaning up after the celebrations just melts your heart away.

Cleaning after winning

And I almost forgot to thank the people of Delhi. Janta jabh deti hai, chappar phad kar deti hai 🙂

Chalo ab 5 Saal Kejriwal! Jai Hind!