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For Abdul Gaffar, 61, this is the worst election well, business-wise. As campaigning comes to an end in Delhi on Monday, the Sadar Bazar-based manufacturer of election material is left with huge stocks of unsold flags. “I have been manufacturing election flags for the past four decades, but this year I hardly have had any customers; my business has come down by 80%,” says Gaffar, adding, “There was a time when I worked through the night during elections and still couldn’t meet our orders. I am looking for an alternative business.”
Sadar Bazar — the biggest hub of election publicity material — once swarmed with party workers during elections. The 50-odd traders here say that their sales have never been so low. And they blame it on the Election Commission’s (EC’s) strict restrictions. Anil Bhai Rakhi Wala, one of the biggest and oldest election-material traders in Sadar Bazar, says that his business this year is down 75%.
“I am left with a lot of unsold election publicity material and do not know what to do with it. The customers who used to buy 50,000 flags are not even buying 500. There are no takers for posters, banners; only caps, scarves and pens are selling in small quantities. I think what has kept the customers away is confusion regarding EC restrictions,” says Anil, sitting surrounded by a glut of election merchandise. “I hope that some of the stock will be cleared during post-election victory rallies.”
Sadar Bazar used to attract buyers not just from Delhi but from all over the country. This time around, other states going to the polls have hardly given it any business.
Gaffar says that in the past, about 35,000 workers from neighbouring Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh flocked to Delhi during elections to work with the manufacturers of election material. “In all, the elections provided temporary employment to about two lakh people in Delhi.”
Vikas Jain, another trader and manufacturer, says: “My business is down by 90%. I had taken huge loans hoping for reasonably good business but this turned out to be worst election for me in the past 30 years.”