Lok Sabha elections 2019: New parties on the poll block
Many new political outfits are contesting the Lok Sabha elections in Delhi and they are as sure of victory as their bigger rivals.Updated: Apr 30, 2019 20:18 IST
New Delhi It is a sweltering April afternoon and Mahender Paswan is holding a meeting with his core group of party workers, all wearing caps and scarves, in the cramped first-floor headquarters of Mazdoor Kirayedar Vikas Party in east Delhi’s Kartar Nagar. The old, rattling ceiling fans are unable to stem the tide of sweat flowing on their faces. But the soaring heat has failed to lower their spirits.
“Be confident of your victory, there is no way we can lose the election if we effectively get our message out to our supporters,” says Paswan, 42, the founder-president of the party. The workers, some standing, others leaning against walls plastered with posters featuring a gas cylinder, the party’s symbol, listen attentively. “We may be new to politics, but we are representing the concerns of more than 70% population of the city,” adds Paswan. His desk has a few curiously named magazines — Betab Samachar Express, Loktantra Ka Paya, Mehboob-e-Hind, all featuring him on the cover.
Like Paswan’s, there are many little-known political parties that are making their debut in the capital’s highly competitive, star-studded electoral arena. Take for example Anjaan Aadmi Party, Satya Bahumat Party, Aapki Ki Apni Party (Peoples), Right To Recall Party, The National Road Map Party of India, Akhil Bhartiya Manavta Paksha, among others. And many of them boast offices, some plush, some not- so- plush; claim to have a well-defined organisational structure, complete with core-committees and spokespersons. Their founders, in most cases, do not have any background in politics and cite their ‘frustration with the traditional parties’ as a reason to start their own.
Paswan, who lives in Sonia Vihar and runs a water treatment plant, says he has been a ‘social worker’ and has always felt strongly about the issues of tenants. “A majority of people in the city are tenants, and they are exploited and harassed by landlords. They are charged exorbitant electricity rates, are made to make payments in cash and so do not get an income tax rebate. And a lot of them do not ever get any identity papers since they fail to provide proof of their address,” says Paswan.
“I approached many politicians with problems of tenants over the past few years. They promised everything but did nothing, and I realised the only solution is to come to power and build affordable houses for working-class tenants,” adds Paswan, unpacking a box of caps and other party merchandise that has just arrived. Sitting next to him are two of his five candidates contesting in Delhi — Gaurav Bhatia, who is contesting from North West Delhi and Mohan Kumar Gupta, the party’s spokesperson, who is contesting from South Delhi this Lok Sabha elections.
“The perception is that only the rich live in South Delhi, but the fact is 90% of the people in South Delhi live in small rented rooms in places such as Tughalakabad village, Lado Sarai, Sangam Vihar, Deoli, Badarpur, Khanpur, Mahipalpur, where an exploitative rental market has come up,” says Gupta, who in his blue jacket and white kurta-pyjama, looks every bit like a seasoned politician – and he talks like one too. “If tenants delay paying rent even for a day, they are humiliated and asked to vacate. Lakhs of tenants in this city can relate to our agenda and they will ensure our victory,” says Gupta, 31, who lives in Burari and is a director in a real estate brokerage company.
Satya Bahumat Party, which, like Mazdoor Kirayedar Party, was registered last year, has an altogether different agenda. Though the party fielded seven candidates in Delhi, only three are now left in the fray after nominations of others were cancelled. These days, the party’s plush air-conditioned office in north Delhi’s Model Town is buzzing with activities. Satyadev Chaudhary, 70, founder- president, sits at a large desk with a big banner and flags of the party fixed on the wall behind him.
“We are in the fray to ensure a coalition-free and corruption-free government. We are trying to make people understand that their votes have no value when it comes to the formation of a government,” says a soft-spoken Chaudhary, who runs a garment export company and lives in the leafy Shanti Niketan in south Delhi. “The majority is an undefined word. The Lok Sabha members are selected by a majority of votes, but the government is formed by the majority of elected members, a system that promotes horse-trading, and the use of money and muscle power. We want to stop this.”
And his solution? “The party that garners the maximum number of votes polled should form the government, whether or not it has a majority of elected members. Forty per cent of the people do not vote because they are fed up with collation politics,” says Chaudhary.
Talking of the growing number of new political parties contesting elections, Chaudhary says, politics is not the preserve of any particular class or family. “People from all walks of life need to join politics to clean it,” he says. His party’s candidates come from varied backgrounds: Ishwar Mansukh, who is contesting from North West Delhi, is a supervisor in a factory; Mohan Lal Sharma, who is contesting from West Delhi, is a retired bureaucrat, and Probir Dutta, the party’s candidate from West Delhi, publishes a neighbourhood newspaper.
So, how did the party choose its candidates? “Frankly we were not in a position to choose, whoever understood our ideology and expressed a desire to contest got the ticket,” says Chaudhury, whose party has also fielded candidates in states such as UP, Bihar, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh.
Richa Katiyar, a scientist-turned lawyer, is contesting the elections from Chandni Chowk for the Right to Recall Party, which was registered in March this year. The main objective of the party, as the name suggests, is to create a system where citizens are empowered to recall their elected representatives if they are not satisfied with their performance. “For me, this election is a call of duty. We keep complaining that there are wrong people in politics. We need to change this by entering politics,” says Katiyar, who lives in Saraswati Vihar in Pitampura. “I am getting a good response to our party’s programme. I feel women can use their influence on family and society to bring about a change. More and more women should join politics.”
Unlike most other parties, the Akhil Bhartiya Manavata Paksha (ABMP) does not have an office or cadre in the city. Its founder Jitendra Raut, who hails from Bramhapuri in Maharashtra, arrived in Delhi on April 21 to file his nominations from New Delhi constituency. As of now, Raut says, he neither has an office, nor a place to live, and is operating out of a hotel in Paharganj.
Raut has lost five Lok Sabha elections in Maharashtra, but this time he decided to contest from New Delhi because, he says, ‘It is the centre of power, one of the most educated constituencies, and people here will understand his programme. “My agenda is to rid this country of reservation and unemployment and save it from an impending economic crisis. No one is better suited than me to be the Prime Minister,” says Raut with a straight face.
But does he understand the problems of his new constituency since he arrived in the city only a week ago? “I have been roaming the streets of New Delhi for the past few days, talking to people. I will soon organise a public meeting, where I will tell people about my policies, politics and programmes,” says Raut, who calls himself an Ambedarkite. He has studied up to BSc third year, but could not complete the degree. “I got into social work when I was in college. My father got angry and threw me out of the house. I could not focus on studies after that,” he says.
So, what does he do for a living? Raut answers the question with a counter question. “What do top social, political and spiritual figures do for a living? My friends, supporters and thousands of followers in Maharashtra help me,” he says. “If people do not elect me, they would have no right to say there is no alternative. I am here as an alternative.”
The founders of new political parties claim to get funding from a network of friends, family and their supporters. “Many of them contribute a monthly amount to the party,” says Chaudhury.
Paswan says a large number of tenants in the city make small donations to keep ‘their’ party going. “We are going to win at least two Lok Sabha seats, and we will fight the next Delhi Assembly elections and form the government in Delhi.”