Barely a month ago, they were busy sloganeering in rallies, making accusations against each others’ parties and spreading the word about their candidates in the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections. However, for the past one month, workers of various parties have been playing cards, sharing hookahs and having meals together at the heavily guarded vote-counting centre at the flower market in Noida Phase 2.
Workers of the Samajwadi Party (SP), Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) have been keeping a vigil at the centre where hundreds of electronic voting machines (EVMs) have been kept since the polling day on February 11.
According to election commission (EC) guidelines, every candidate can have four agents inside the counting centre to ensure that the EVMs are not tampered with. The agents are to remain present throughout the period between polling and vote counting.
For the past one month, the workers put on duty as agents have been putting up at the centre together and have developed a camaraderie with each other.
“Have you ever seen political leaders developing animosity with each other after elections? They were friends before the polls and will be friends after the counting day, whatever be the result. When they are not sworn enemies, why shouldn’t the cadre mingle with one another,” said Amit Awana, an SP worker from Harola village.
The agents sit on a cot and play cards the whole day. They have also made temporary sleeping arrangements under a shed with cots and mosquito nets. Their meals, usually delivered by their family members, are also shared.
“Every day, we eagerly wait for someone’s food to be delivered as it is shared by everyone. Home-made food is a luxury none of us want to miss,” said Gopichand, a BSP worker.
Tarun Awana, an SP worker, claims almost all ground-level party workers know each other and hence guard the EVMs together.
“Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) leader Satender Awana is my cousin from Harola village. We might belong to different parties, but, in the end, we are one big family,” he said.
Awana’s thoughts are echoed by Manoj Bhadana and Ravi Shekhar of the BJP.
“It is true that during elections, we give our sweat and blood to the party. But after the polling, there is no reason why we shouldn’t be friends. Whatever be the outcome of the elections, we will always remain attached to each other,” said Ravi Shekhar, a junior-level cadre from BJP.
However, agents from the BJP expressed dissatisfaction about the fact that none of the senior party leaders visited the centre.
“Other parties’ candidates visit the centre almost everyday, but our party’s senior leaders behave as if they are not bothered about the EVMs at all. We are staying content over here only due to the support of our brothers from rival parties,” said a BJP worker.