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Miles to go before they rest

Don’t be fooled by the number of wrinkles on their faces. Behind their quiet smiles and feeble voices, they have the enthusiasm of a teenager. Hamari Jamatia reports.

delhi Updated: Apr 12, 2012 00:21 IST
Hamari Jamatia

Don’t be fooled by the number of wrinkles on their faces. Behind their quiet smiles and feeble voices, they have the enthusiasm of a teenager.

In an election that is running mainly on youth power, 15 senior citizens are campaigning from afternoon to night to reserve a spot in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD).

“I can retire from politics and rest, but I would rather die campaigning than die in my bed,” said Ramesh Dutta, 67. Contesting from Minto Road for the Congress party, this will be Dutta’s eighth win — if he does win.

Most of the older candidates feel the strain of age and suffer from diabetes, arthritis and exhaustion, but chose to avoid talking about it.

Among those contesting on Congress and BJP tickets, the oldest is Manoharlal Jain from Pitampura, at 70 years. This is the first time he will be contesting.

Apparently, Jain has been given a ticket because the ward is predominantly dominated by the BJP and Congress wanted to save their ‘better candidates for more winnable wards’. But Jain, with his 40 years of experience in politics, refuses to take things lying down. He has set up an office adjacent to the BJP office and spends the whole day meeting people and asking for support.

To ensure he has the youth voters on his side too, Jain has opened a Facebook account with some help from his 24-year-old grandson Varun.

If elected, won’t he feel out of place in a young team? “For a corporation to function, it needs a versatile team. The young can provide fresh ideas and hard work, while the not-so-young can contribute with their experience. The good thing about older councillors is that they are in no hurry, which makes them better workers. We are more honest since we have already fulfiled our duties towards our families,” he said.

Ayurvedic doctor Bhim Singh Sharma, 67, is one of the oldest candidates of BJP. Contesting from West Patel Nagar, the sitting councillor is intrigued by the sea change that has taken place in the way elections are fought. “Earlier people were more honest and elections had a very festive feel about them,” he said.

And age, he said, is just a number for him. “The people here know me personally. They vote for me, not my party,” he said.