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Lok Sabha elections 2019: We the spectators, we the participants

A glimpse into the lives of citizens who witnessed two big election campaigns — of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Narendra Modi — in the capital

lok sabha elections Updated: May 11, 2019 09:27 IST
Mayank Austen Soofi
Mayank Austen Soofi
New Delhi
Lok Sabha elections 2019,Citizens,Common man
This week, Delhi pulsated with the final and the most intense stage of campaigning for Phase 6 of Lok Sabha elections . (Hindustan Times)

This week, Delhi pulsated with the final and the most intense stage of campaigning for Phase 6 of Lok Sabha elections .

On Wednesday, Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi held a roadshow in the sweltering afternoon heat near the bleak shanties of Zero Pushta, while Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the BJP addressed a rally that same evening in the historic Ramlila Maidan. Here are brief sketches of some citizens whose lives were momentarily touched by these two events.

Deepak Baghel, the happy man with one last dream

The 30-year-old “tempo driver” is not a Delhiwalla. Therefore, he will not be casting his vote in the city tomorrow. Even so, he came all the way from Ballabgarh in Haryana to attend the Prime Minister’s rally in Ramlila Maidan. A Narendra Modi devotee, he is sitting in an open rickshaw decked with BJP symbols. One of his cheeks is painted with the national flag; the other has the word Modi artistically painted in blue. The gentle-mannered man patiently explains that “I’m very happy in my life and my happiness will be complete if my last dream becomes true”. Mr Baghel wants a daughter. “I have two sons but need a girl, too.”

The driver says this yearning was borne out of “Modiji‘s insistence on the importance of the girl child”. Picking up a poster of the Prime Minister from his rickshaw, the gentleman addresses himself to the image as if he is personally talking to the Prime Minister. “Modiji, remember you once told us that a family is incomplete without a daughter!” Turning to his interlocutor, he talks of “the duty of every man to have a girl child because the world cannot continue without women... and because I took somebody’s daughter for my wife, it is my duty to give back the world a daughter.” Waiting to enter the rally ground, Mr Baghel has come all the way to the capital “to thank Narendra Modiji for his tapasya to the nation.”

Kamal, the beautifier sans hope

Priyanka Gandhi’s road show is scheduled to begin in an hour from Jagpravesh Chandra Hospital. Kamal, a 35-year-old sweeper with the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), is “beautifying” the area by lining the road with white choona. The sun’s direct glare is unforgiving. The very air seems to be on the boil and the man’s shovel is feeling as hot on touch as a frying pan on fire. But he isn’t bothered. “Neither about the heat, nor about the politics,” he reveals. His mind is instead drifting towards Muskan, his daughter. “She is in Class 12 and nothing has changed in my circumstances since the time she was born.” Kamal describes himself as “kachha,” implying that he has been working with the municipality for 18 years as “just a temporary employee with no employment benefits”. Kamal feels his life has been “wasted so badly that it is like not having lived at all.” Can Muskan do better than him? He isn’t sure.

Mewa Lal, the “mast” ice cream walla

The ice-cream seller is walking around the perimeter of the Ramlila Maidan hoping to get business from the crowd — that is becoming bigger by the minute — to hear Prime Minister Narendra Modi. His ice-creams, made in a small “factory” in east Delhi’s Shahdara, are packed in his makeshift thermacol ice pack. “I haven’t sold a single ice-cream since the morning,” he says matter-of-factly, though he has been walking about the rally ground for an hour. A migrant from Uttar Pradesh, Mr Lal isn’t very worried though. “I’m mast… my parents are dead, I don’t have a wife or children, and so I don’t have to feed anybody but myself.” He already has about three hundred rupees he managed to save from the previous week’s earnings and “even if I don’t get to earn a single rupee today, I can still afford my dinner in the dhaba.” Mr Lal isn’t hopeful about the evening and is planning to soon begin the long walk back to his home in Shahdara.

Muhammed Fayaz, the nervous onlooker

The 46-year-old “silai master” hurt his finger while fixing the Congress party’s flag on an electric pole at Brahmapuri Pulia. Mr Fayaz however isn’t a party worker, but “just a supporter.” Waiting for Priyanka Gandhi’s road show to begin, he says he has never before seen the Congress scion in person. There has been a buzz since yesterday when the police, he says, knocked on each home lining the road show’s scheduled route to note down “our identities and mobile numbers.”

At the moment it is however so hot that he has decided to cool heels in his “office”, a small room stacked with cooking gas burners. Shaking his head, he confesses to having given up the “tailory in order to check out if chulha repairing can be more lucrative.” The gentleman is however more concerned with the elections. “I’m so nervous. Can you tell which way the [political] wind is blowing?” He says he is unable to eat properly “as if whatever will happen on May 23 might directly affect my jigar and fefre (liver and lungs). I’m getting headaches. I don’t feel hungry. I’m not sure if the result will match my ummeedein (hope).”

Vimlesh, the believer

An endless number of packed buses are stopping one after another by the Ramlila Maidan. A large number of people are flocking towards the rally ground to watch Prime Minister Modi. There is money to be made amid all this hullabaloo, believes papad seller Vimlesh. Carrying a huge basket filled with the snacks, he has concluded that chances of a better earning are higher inside the ground. Since the cops, won’t let him in with the straw basket, he is trying for an opportunity to climb the fence while nobody’s looking. “No success so far,” he says with a nervous laughter. But Vimlesh also wants to see the Prime Minister. “You know my condition is very bad. My family lives in a jhuggi in our village in Bihar. But I believe Modiji can change our lives. I think if he tries hard he cannot only provide better housing in the village but can also help me get a pucca house in Delhi. To live well in Delhi is my dream.”

Vicky, the man with no time for politics

This 35-year-old man’s job is to keep the Brahmapuri drains free of clogged garbage. A staffer with the municipality, he is assigned to clean up a part of the route through which Priyanka Gandhi’s roadshow is to pass. Vicky’s mind, however, is preoccupied with problems that perhaps even the Prime Minister might not be able to solve. “I had a squabble with (wife) Neetu some days ago and she went away to her brother’s place with (daughter) Rishika.” Despite his entreaties, the morose-looking man despairs, his wife is not prepared to return. “I’m left completely alone... my parents have passed away and now I have nobody at home.” Then there are practical concerns to the domestic drama. “Neetu would ensure my breakfast was on time. Now I have to prepare it myself because of which I’m often reporting late to work.” Vicky realises that “people are very worked up about the elections but for him there is a greater crisis at home.”

First Published: May 11, 2019 04:09 IST

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