His party blamed the BJP but many of those who turned up to file nomination papers from New Delhi constituency the same day as the chief minister might have been former AAP sympathisers.
January 21 saw high drama in Delhi when Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal went to file his nomination for the Delhi Assembly election. He ended up waiting for six hours before he finally got it done.
The delay was caused by a group of people who tried to file their nominations before Kejriwal and, in the process, “made mistakes”.
The Aam Aadmi Party’s MLA, Saurabh Bharadwaj, straight up blamed the Bharatiya Janata Party for this.
Kejriwal had a softer approach to this whole ordeal.
He even ended up telling Bharadwaj that it “doesn’t matter”.
AAP seems to have made peace with the people who showed up to allegedly delay the nomination of their party boss. But we decided to dig deeper and find out who these people were.
The information we had, based on various reports, was that Kejriwal’s token number was 45 and there were other people lined up before him. The Election Commission, on their part, has there was no deliberate delay on their end.
One Newslaundry reporter was at the Returning Officer’s Office where he noticed that these were not just individuals filing their nominations separately; they seemed to be doing it in cohesion, as a group. In fact, some members of the same family were filing their nominations in the New Delhi constituency.
This raises a few questions. Who were these people, and why were they collectively filing nominations in the same constituency? What was their objective? Did they belong to the BJP, as claimed by Bharadwaj, or were they from another party?
What we found is rather bizarre: some people who were protesting belonged to a group who call themselves “1857 Dobara”.
Now, before we go any further, a small note to our readers: all the information we have dug up for this fun little investigation is publicly available on social media and other websites. A follow-up investigation was done by Newslaundry after visiting one location in Delhi.
No. This is not a sequel to a cheesy Bollywood historical drama about the First War for Indian Independence. “1857 Dobara” is a group of people whose objective seems to be to encourage people to fight elections. They even have where they posted updates on what was happening at the RO office.
Their “About” page has a lot more information, including a mobile number, email address, and links to their Twitter, Instagram and Youtube handles.
One particular post on the Facebook page caught our eye.
Two images from this post show files belonging to “Sarita” and “Beerwati”. Strangely enough, they gave the same address: B-2/208, Nand Nagri, Delhi.
We found that this address was listed against one Manish Kumar. The Election Commission’s website lists four members from the same family who have filed applications for nomination.
So our correspondent went to the B-2/208, Nand Nagri, to find out what’s up.
So, from this narrow lane in Nand Nagri's B Block, one family fielded four of its members against Kejriwal yesterday.
"Apart from my brother Manish and my sisters Beervati and Sarita, I too filed a nomination," said Lalit Kumar. He is associated with the Mazdoor Ekta Party, an organisation formed last year to represent shunted workers from government departments in Delhi. Party hoardings are lined outside his house, with the slogan: “Jan Jan ki yahi pukar, har haath ko rozgar.” This is a public demand, employment for every person.
Lalit Kumar asserts that the flood of nominations was prompted by their disappointment with Kejriwal on many counts. “The AAP government has not been able to address the problem of unemployment,” he says. "There have been job cuts, on the contrary. I used to work as a conductor at DTC before I was laid off in late 2018."
When asked why four members of the same family would want to stand against Kejriwal, he says it was to prove a point and not win the election.
"We believe that he has changed in the last five years after tasting power,” Kumar says. “So, poor and affected people like us wanted to show that we too could challenge him if we desired."
We asked Lalit how his family managed to furnish the deposit money, despite him losing his job at DTC and being in a dire situation financially. He responded, “We belong to reserved category, so our deposit amount was Rs 5,000 each. We had to dip into our savings and borrow from others to collect Rs 20,000 for four people.”
A family affair
We found another instance of members of the same family registering themselves to fight the election from the same constituency. This is odd, because why would members of a family contest against each other?
We were unable to contact the members of this family as the number we found was switched off. We will update the story once we are able to get a comment from them.
Other than this intriguing family affair, there were a few interesting characters at the RO office on January 21 who caught our attention. First up, Rajan Madaan. He is a member of the “1857 Dobara” group and even has a snazzy poster for himself.
In October 2017, Madaan went to jail for one month after he threw some papers in the Delhi Vidhan Sabha and invoked Bhagat Singh. In an with Dainik Jagran about the incident, he claimed he had worked with and campaigned for AAP. He was upset that the party’s “character” has changed, and that Kejriwal didn’t “live up” to the anti-corruption movement.
We found Rajan Madaan’s phone number on the poster of from the same group.
On Tuesday, Madaan put up on Facebook congratulating other “revolutionaries” for their successful nomination-filing exercise. One of the people he mentions is named Shivendu Mishra. Mishra was seen speaking to the media during yesterday’s nomination-filing kerfuffle.
We trawled the social media posts of several members of the “1857 Dobara” group but could not find a direct connection with any political party. In fact, there is evidence that some of them had in fact been associated with the India Against Corruption movement. There are, for instance, multiple pictures from 2013 of Mishra participating in AAP rallies.
Although Lalit Kumar and his party aren’t part of “1857 Dobara”, he admitted to sharing their goal of defeating AAP. He told our correspondent, “Most people belonging to 1857 Dobara were associated with the Indian Against Corruption movement but now are disillusioned with Kejriwal.”
Prima facie, it seems like a case of a bunch of folks who are disgruntled with AAP trying to score a point by making Kejriwal’s life difficult.
With inputs from Akshat Dutt and Anukriti Malik.