AAP receives a boost in state with Medha Patkar's support

Jan 14, 2014, 12:29 IST | Ravikiran Deshmukh

The social activist extended her support to the Arvind Kejriwal-led party and said the future course of action would be announced after discussions with senior AAP leaders

Social activist Medha Patkar has joined the ranks of people who are pledging their support to the Aam Aadmi Party. Patkar on Monday revealed that the National Alliance of People’s Movement (NAPM), the organisation of movements across India, of which she is one of the national conveners, would support the AAP, as the party had an anti-corruption agenda.

Medha Patkar with AAP leader Mayank Gandhi after she pledged support to the new party. Pic/Shadab Khan
Medha Patkar with AAP leader Mayank Gandhi after she pledged support to the new party. Pic/Shadab Khan

With Patkar, the AAP has received a face that is familiar to people of the state. Having been associated with a number of agitations since many years, Patkar can further create troubles for established parties such as the Congress, NCP, BJP and Shiv Sena. She also said the future course of action about the role NAPM would be announced after holding discussions with senior AAP leaders on January 16 and 17. “As of now, we have become a close associate of the AAP,” said the activist who has participated in different movements and agitations across Maharashtra.

Clarifying further, Patkar said active support would be based on both ideological commonality and clarity. The AAP was quick to welcome her support, as party leaders Mayank Gandhi, Anjali Damania were present at Azad Maidan where Patkar announced her decision. Welcoming her support, AAP leader Mayank Gandhi said, “One needs to go inside (electoral politics) to carry forward the agitation and the people’s struggle.” Damania called it a big, historic day for AAP. Thanking her for the decision, she said, “The revolution will become bigger and it will also encourage us.”

Seasoned hand
Right from the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) to her recent stand against the sale of sugar cooperative units to private players, Patkar has been at the forefront of various struggles in Maharashtra (see box). Her steadfastness during the agitation against the Sardar Sarovar Project and the struggle for rehabilitation of tribal communities displaced by the project was a nightmare for the state politicians and the state government officials during the ’90s.

For AAP, slum dwellers, tribal communities, and workers of sugar mills, led by Patkar, can be a readily available force to take the party into the rural and urban parts of the state. Patkar has also been associated with agitations led by social crusader Anna Hazare. She was also supportive to Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samitee led by the late Narendra Dabholkar.

She has not been a novice to state politics thanks to her close association with left-wing trade union leaders and activists, leaders of Peasants and Workers Party (PWP), CPI, CPM and others. She has also campaigned for NCP leader and home minister R R Patil during the state assembly polls.

BJP was quick to react on her decision. “Medha Patkar has exposed the true picture and the political activities being carried on in the name of AAP. Organisations openly supportive of violent and separatist Naxal movements have come together under the leadership of Patkar,” alleged Madhav Bhandari, party spokesperson.

Mission Medha
Narmada Bachao Andolan: Patkar spoke against the Narmada Valley Development Project, citing that the dams being proposed in the plan — Sardar Sarovar and Narmada Sagar were going to displace millions of people and cause extreme environmental damage. Her activism led the World Bank to withdraw funding for the Sardar Sarovar Project in 1994.

‘Ghar Banao, Ghar Bachao’ movement: Patkar has been fighting for the rights of slum dwellers evicted from their houses in Mumbai. The movement deals with slums demolished by the BMC in or after 2004 and the activist has been active in leading slum inhabitants of Golibar Maidan Slum Rehabilitation Project (Santacruz), for which she went on a hunger strike when the civic body demolished the slums in April 2013.

Against Lavasa: She has taken up the cudgels against Lavasa, blaming the builder for uprooting thousands of trees, causing environmental damage and displacement of tribals. She condemned the conditional clearance given by the Ministry of Environment and Forests to the project.

Sugar mills: Patkar recently alleged a scam worth Rs 20,000 crore in the sale of sugar mill cooperatives in the state. She claimed that politicians, who controlled the banks that gave out loans to the cooperatives, deliberately caused the factories to turn ‘sick’, and in order to recover the loaned amount, sold them to private firms at throwaway prices.

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