In front of Hanuman Mandir at Baba Kharak Singh Marg, a yellow board may catch your fancy. "Connaught Place walleh baba ki jay," "Bhola Baishno Tea Stall," and "Netaji Chai Walle" are written in bold Hindi. The person manning the stall is no ordinary tea-seller: he is a contestant from the New Delhi constituency.
Though his candidature was rejected in 2009, Shatrudhan Gupta, a tea vendor, is confident of a win this time. (Sonu Mehta/HT Photo)
Thirty seven-year-old Shatrudhan Gupta wears a white cap, white kurta pajama and black waist coat with a 'tika' on his forehead. "Everyone here knows me as Netaji. You ask anyone in the Connaught Place area about Netaji ki chai ki dukaan and they will direct you here. I have been selling tea at this very spot for the past 13 years," Gupta, a native of Arariya district in Bihar, said.
He had tried to contest in 2009 but could not. "They had cancelled my nomination citing some ID issues. I was disappointed but knew if not today, I will definitely succeed tomorrow. Since then, I have been campaigning from my shop. All hawkers and small traders are with me," the father of three sons and a daughter said.
According to Gupta, his chances are really bright this time. "There is no competition. The sitting MLA hasn't done any work. The other candidates are not very strong and I feel no real threat against me this time. I have a very real chance to win this seat and represent people like me in the annals of power," Netaji said, before adding a bit of sugar to the piping tumbler of tea.
Two tin boxes, with a plea to people to give Netaji an "anudaan (donation)" of Rs. 1 to fight the polls, have been kept in front of his shop for patrons to help him in his contest. "It is so interesting. Can't believe that the person who made us this amazing tea will contest in the Parliament elections," Shruti Singh, a college student, said.
So why did he take the decision to contest? "No political party listens to us, the lower section of the society. So I have taken up the mantle myself. Lord Hanuman is with me. If not this time, I will try again, and again and again, till I win," Gupta said.