Delhi’s Sadar Bazaar may be rich in hues these days —with dozens of shops festooned with banners, flags and ribbons of various parties, representing the united colours of the Indian political landscape — but what dulls its spectrum is the missing buyer.
The 30 shops in this bustling wholesale hub that supply about 80 per cent of the election material used nationally, are bereft of buyers, despite the first phase of elections already being over—a grim situation they never faced before.
No wonder the traders are a dejected lot. While their business has been steadily dwindling over the years, election 2009, say most traders here, is the worst in terms of sales. “Our business has come down by 90 per cent this year; I have not had a single buyer in the past few days. I wish to exit this trade as soon as I clear my present stock,” said trader Mahesh Bhai Rakhiwala.
Anil Bhai Rakhiwala, the most prominent trader of election material in Sadar Bazaar, also admits a 50 per cent decline in business and attributes it to “the confusion created by the recent EC advisory” to political parties to avoid the use of plastic material.
Another reason for the sharp decline in his business, he says, is that large political parties like the BJP and Congress prefer to outsource campaign advertising to big agencies now.
“What makes things worse for us is the fact that many politicians simply do not pay. A cricketer turned-politician fighting elections from Bihar on a BJP ticket is yet to pay for the material he bought during the previous Lok Sabha elections,” adds Rakhiwala.
The suppliers are no better off. Anis Bhai Jhandewala, 54, a flag manufacturer, has been doing the rounds of these shops for the past few days to get payment for flags he has supplied. But no trader, he says, is willing to pay, as they say the stock has not been sold.
The dwindling sales of campaign material has affected the livelihood of about 2 lakh people in the city, say the manufacturers of the election material.
“I used to outsource the stitching of banners and flags to slum colonies in East Delhi. This year I have not been able to give much work to them,” says another flag manufacturer, Zahid Bhai Jhande Wala.
Abdul Gaffar Ansari, who has been manufacturing election material for 35 years, gets nostalgic about the good old days.
“Thousands of labourers used to come to Delhi from Bihar and UP prior to the elections, and we used to work through the night. We have discouraged them this year, ” says Ansari, as he oversees the making of caps for a Shiv Sena candidate in Maharshtra.