The sewing machines — two of them — are rusty. And the scissors, threads and needles are crowded out by BSP pamphlets and Bahujan Samaj icon Kanshi Ram's posters. It's clearly a tailor's shop, as the tools of the trade show. But neither the owner nor customers are re in sight.
Enquiries reveal that masterjee (the shop-owner) now functions from the district's administrative office. There, you find him surrounded by party functionaries, social workers and lawyers. Ashokmaster to one and all, he enjoys sufficient clout. Even the city Mayor drops in to see him.
Ashok is a senior BSP functionary — district president in Sagar, bordering Uttar Pradesh, to be precise. He belongs to an era where it was tough getting together even 100 people for a BSP meeting. Now, he says, “thousands attend and voluntarily”.
It was in 1984 that Ashok mortgaged a gold chain to print posters for the BSP. Kanshi Ram was due to visit Sagar and Ashok wanted to put his best foot forward. But he decided to work full time for the party only in 2003. The BSP was then recovering from desertions and needed to be rebuilt. Since then, he has been at it and intends to continue till Mayawati is sworn in as Prime Minister.
Ashok, like many others, are the BSP's selfless and faceless workers — known as backroom boys. For them, it is not about power or position. He says, “It is a mission … a battle for dignity.” There are many others like Ashokmaster — car mechanics, fuel station attendants and roadside vendors. Low-key and down to earth, but determined to change the social order.
Unlike Ashok's tailoring shop, Raja Ram's office in Bhopal has more space. He has a time constraint and does not stop doing what he has to do. This time, he is counting a heap of one-rupee coins slowly and indulgently, like a daily wager would do at the end of the day.
Raja Ram seems a man of few words. Ask him anything under the sun, and he would say, “Wait and watch. Next Prime Minister will be Mayawati.” His current assignment: Manage the BSP office in the state capital.