Governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo may indeed be the most popular high-ranking official in the country as a survey suggests, leaving other national political figures behind, as an unfortunate incident proved in a local traditional market in the capital on Wednesday morning.
Coordinating Economic Minister and National Mandate Party (PAN) chairman Hatta Rajasa was surprised to discover that meat and rice vendors at Jakarta markets had mistaken him for Jokowi.
Hatta, who has held a total of four ministerial posts in the past 10 years, was met by confused stares as he made a series of unannounced visits to traditional markets in East Jakarta.
“Well, I know his face, since I’ve seen him on TV several times, but I do not know his name. I only know Pak Jokowi,” said Sri Dartuti, a rice seller at the Cipinang rice market.
Hatta received an enthusiastic, if misdirected, welcome when he arrived at the Klender Jaya market. “It’s Jokowi! Jokowi is coming to our place!” one stall owner said.
Politicians have stepped up their unannounced visits, known as blusukan in Javanese, in the run-up to the 2014 presidential and legislative elections.
The practice was made popular by Jokowi when he was the mayor of Surakarta, Central Java, between 2005 and 2012. He continued his routine when assuming the Jakarta gubernatorial post in October last year.
Others have followed suit, including President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and, with mixed results, Hatta — the former’s in-law.
Jokowi’s routine has been criticized by many, including Jakarta city councillor Selamat Nurdin of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS). The councillor said the governor, who was backed by the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), should do more work rather than wandering around the city.
Jokowi has repeatedly dismissed opinions that his excursions were only for fun, saying that the visits were his way of knowing the city better.
“I came from Solo [Surakarta]. By going around the city, I will understand the city’s issues better,” Jokowi said during a discussion with a social media community recently, adding that his gesture did not involve a particular personal agenda.
“Many have said that my habit of blusukan to slum areas is only a publicity stunt. It wasn’t. I decided to visit an area because I already had preliminary data and reports on the area, I won’t visit it if I didn’t have to,” he said, adding that he had never asked the press to cover all of his activities.
His rocketing popularity was apparently captured by some survey agencies that indicated that Jokowi would be a strong contender for the 2014 presidential election.
Polls consistently show that Jokowi would even beat PDI-P chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri and Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) chief patron Prabowo Subianto.
A recent survey by the Center for Integrated Data (PDB) showed that Jokowi topped the list of 13 potential presidential candidates, with an electability rate of 21.2 percent.
In late 2012, another survey compiled by the Poll Tracking Institute in Jakarta, said Jokowi topped a list of young potential candidates for the 2014 elections, finding favor with 78 percent of respondents.
Jokowi, however, has repeatedly played down speculation on a presidential bid, saying that his focus currently was to solve Jakarta’s urban issues. His refusal echoed that of some PDI-P executives, who urged him to ignore the surveys and focus on fulfilling the campaign promises he made to Jakartans. (sat)