Until a week ago, Sushil Kumar Jindal and Geeta Rani were lowly, penniless voters. Now, they are head turners, courtesy a wily move of jumping into the fray as Independents.
Coming from a new crop of self-styled social-worker-sturned-politicians growing in Bathinda during the Lok Sabha elections, from being nobody, they have moved to being somebody, albeit temporarily.
They have declared neither any bank account nor a house or a vehicle.
Their biggest asset is 24-hour Punjab police security, deployed on orders of the Election Commission (EC).
The guards, however, are disenchanted. From dawn to dusk, a matriculate Jindal, 31, a driver by profession, rides a “hired bicycle” during canvassing, while his gunmen have to trail him on foot.
“Kee kariye ji, (what can we do, Sir),” is how the hapless cops reacted.
“I have requested the returning officer for two more police sentries,” says Jindal, who accepts that he has no means to offer the security team even two cups of tea a day. At night, while the “netaji” sleeps in the single-room house of his parents, the cops catch a nap on the chair.
Rani, 50, who lives in a two-room house, has given one of the rooms to her three guards led by a head constable and she also serves them food. Her declared assets: “not even a penny”; so asked why she needed security, the candidate shot back: “I have friends as well as foes.”
“The local court is my ‘karmbhoomi’. It’s where I do social work and help people,” she says; but the locals describe her “social work” variously. Rani is a veteran of contesting elections and forfeiting security deposit.
This is her second Lok Sabha poll, while she has fought three assembly battles as well, unsuccessfully, of course.
Unlike Jindal, Rani has two campaign cars she claims to have received from supporters. Asked what would she gain from wasting canvassing money and fuel, she maintains a studied silence, while her brother sitting beside struggles hold his laughter at the “naïve” query.
“Electiona doraan bada kuchh hunda hai (a lot happens during the elections),” whispers a cop.