It’s hard to imagine an MLA standing in a queue along with dozens of others and waiting for his turn at a public toilet in the morning. Akhilesh Pati Tripathi still does that whenever he stays overnight at his office-cum-home at the Lal Bagh slum cluster near Azadpur in north Delhi.
“Lal Bagh is my home. I don’t remember how many people have offered me a place to sleep in Lal Bagh. I must have had food at 1,000 houses here in the past two years,” says the 29-year-old.
Hailing from a middle-class family, Tripathi has an MA degree from Allahabad University. In 2007, he arrived in New Delhi from Sant Kabir Nagar district in Uttar Pradesh with the dream of becoming an IAS officer. He stayed with his friends at Nehru Vihar near Delhi University’s north campus, where four of them shared a tiny two-room flat.
While preparing for the civil services exam, Tripathi felt an urge to take up social service. Soon, he started organising blood donation camps, teaching poor children in the area and helping anyone in need.
As his love for social service grew, his civil services dream faded with time. When he joined the India Against Corruption movement in 2011, his family was worried.
“My friends would save the day then,” he recalls. “They would somehow convince my elder brother that I was on the right track and will achieve something worthwhile.”
Today, his former flatmates and friends from the civil services exam preparation days are still supporting him.
“He not only became an MLA but went very close to clearing the IAS exam and a couple of state civil services examinations. He progressed until the interview stages of the competitive exams,” says Tripathi’s friend Shripad Mishra, who helps the new MLA plan his meetings.
Tripathi’s road to political stardom was not an easy one. “Last September, I was implicated in a false criminal case, which was politically motivated,” he says. “My friends and I were accused of rioting and arson. We spent 12 days behind bars and were abused and tortured.”
As Tripathi took his fight to the PDS mafia and drug peddlers who were active in the slum clusters of Model Town, he faced resistance from criminal elements.
“Thankfully, the people stood behind me. Now, I have managed to clean this slum cluster of drugs,” he says.
Tripathi, who has assets worth Rs 1.5 lakh to his name, says that had it not been for the strong wave of support for AAP, his win would have been difficult in Model Town, which also comprises posh localities. “I will ensure that no grievance goes unheard,” he promises.