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Follow the leader: Meditation takes Aam Aadmi Party by storm

Kejriwal’s recent vipassana session at Igatpuri in Nashik was also attended by Maliwal and a mid-rung Aap leader

Gulf News

New Delhi: Silence is not just golden, but seems to be catching as well.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s trusted aides are known to follow him in hours of crisis and turbulence. And now it appears for peace and quiet as well.

Kejriwal’s tryst with vipassana, a regimen of meditation and silence, has had a cascading effect on his party, with many other leaders treading the path of the ancient Buddhist practice.

The chief of the Aam Aadmi Party, who returned recently from one such session, tweeted after the course, “Jst finished Vipassna meditation course. Its bliss. Hope someday, me n my wife will fully immerse ourselves in meditation (sic).”

He has also sparked an interest in nature cure. Like Kejriwal, who often turns to natural therapy to heal ailments such as high blood sugar, his lieutenants are attending naturopathy courses, traditional Indian systems of cure entailing meditation, yoga and well-balanced vegetarian diets.

Vipassana has become quite the rage in the AAP.

Among its adherents are Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, Kejriwal’s close confidant since his activist days; Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) chief Swati Maliwal; former Delhi unit convener Dilip Pandey; former Punjab co-in-charge Durgesh Pathak; and Atishi Marlena, who is executing the Delhi government’s flagship initiatives in the education sector.

A host of other middle-rung leaders and volunteers are also enrolling themselves in vipassana sessions where participants have to maintain full silence for usually a period of 10 days.

Clearly, for leaders of a party that is less than five years old, has formed a government in Delhi twice and is the principal opposition force in Punjab, meditation helps in tackling the stress that politics and power — to say nothing of organisational problems and recurring dissent — present.

Party leaders say that Kejriwal, an ardent practitioner of vipassana, has completed more than 35 sessions of the 10-day meditation course over ten years or so.

“After every session, he is back with new fervour and enthusiasm,” says an aide.

Kejriwal’s recent session at Igatpuri in Nashik was also attended by Maliwal and a mid-rung Aap leader.

“Five volunteers also joined in when people got to know that Arvind is attending the advanced vipassana course, which was meant for those who have completed at least three sessions in the past. It was only after the completion [of the course] that we got to know about them,” a party leader said.

Aap’s national convener makes it a point to attend a vipassana session before or after every major election the party contests.

He joined one after the hectic 2014 Lok Sabha polls, in which Aap performed poorly, losing all seven seats in Delhi and to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in varanasi. Since then he has been attending the course every year.

Before the Punjab polls, Kejriwal and Pathak attended a 10-day course in Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh in August last year. After the session, Kejriwal was involved in a hectic campaign in Punjab and Goa till the state elections in February this year.

“I owe my success and what I am today it because of vipassana. It helps me get over defilement and anger, and increases my focus. It simply renews my passion towards my work. The best part of it is that the practice is non- sectarian,” said Maliwal, who was introduced to the meditation practice by Kejriwal in 2008.

Since then the DCW chief, who has been associated with Kejriwal since his activist days, has attended 17 such sessions.

Aap leader Naveen Jaihind, Maliwal’s husband, the party’s Haryana convener and vipassana practitioner, said the meditation system made one “mentally strong” and reduced stress.

“It removes hate and animosity filled within oneself. It gives new ideas and increases mental strength to deal with challenges,” Jaihind, another of Kejriwal’s close associates, said.

Kejriwal, a diabetic, started attending naturopathy courses at Bengaluru after his blood sugar shot up considerably soon after the 2015 Assembly polls victory in Delhi.

Aap leader Sanjay Singh said Kejriwal did not ask anyone to practise silence and meditation, but they followed him after seeing the “positive changes” in him.

Singh, who had accompanied Kejriwal for a naturopathy course in Bengaluru after the Punjab polls, said the session helped him reduce stress and his weight by six kilograms. He had done a similar course in 2013 after the party tasted power in its maiden polls in Delhi.

Besides Singh, Pathak and AAP’s Sangrur MP and Punjab convener Bhagwant Mann also accompanied Kejriwal for the course in Bengaluru.