In the elections to the Delhi Municipal Corporation held on April 23, one campaign that stood out from the others was that of the people’s candidate and activist of Lok Raj Sangathan called Shivaji, in the Harkesh Nagar ward of, South Delhi.
Shivaji is a youth who lives within this constituency, in Sanjay Colony. He has been active in the struggles of the people of the area for their civic amenities and basic rights for several years now. As a cultural worker, he has also been active in using the media of theatre and dance, to bring political and social awareness to the people. He is currently the President of the Lok Raj Samiti of Sanjay Colony.
For nearly three weeks, starting from the early hours of the morning, one could witness this group of about 20-25 youth, accompanied by older residents of the area, in high spirits yet disciplined, walking through the lanes of the many slum clusters that make up this constituency. Carrying banners of the candidate and his election symbol “whistle”, they enlivened the atmosphere with their enthusiastic slogans and songs. Many of the youth took time off from their schools and colleges as well as jobs, to devote time for the campaign. The campaign would often carry on through the blazing afternoon heat, into the late hours of the evening and night. Every time the youth got tired, a group of singers from among them would break into a Bhojpuri song, especially composed for the occasion and sung to a popular, lively folk tune. The songs highlighted the stark difference in the conditions of the rich and powerful on those of the workers and peasants. They sang songs calling on all toilers to unite and fight for their rights. Such songs would immediately lift the spirits all in the campaign team. During breaks for tea and snacks, as well as at the end of each day’s work, they would share and sum up their experiences and make plans for the next phase of the campaign.
At a meeting of all the volunteer comrades hosted by the Lok Raj Samiti Sanjay Colony at the end of the elections, various comrades spoke about the different aspects of the campaign that had made it stand out from the others.
The first aspect was that the candidate had been selected by the residents of the colony, from amongst themselves. In most other cases, the candidates had been given tickets by the high command of the political parties they were representing. Many candidates had paid huge amounts of money to get a ticket from one or the other recognised parties, and were worried that they may lose it all if not elected.
The second aspect was the undertaking that the candidate had given, notarized copies of which were widely circulated throughout the constituency. In this, the candidate has pledged that if elected, he would discuss in public forums, with the members of the constituency, about their needs and problems as well as how the money allotted for various works should be spent. He promised to periodically render accounts to the people if elected. He promised to step down if the electorate feels he has betrayed their trust. This was an entirely new thing that made a deep impression on the people – a candidate who is himself a part of the struggling people, promises to be accountable to them and respects their right to recall him if he does not represent them satisfactorily.
The election campaign of the people’s candidate was carried out with minimal expense, on the basis of funds contributed by people of the constituency themselves. Holding colourful banners as they marched, they went from house to house and lane to lane, distributing their message through leaflets and discussions. At several points, especially junctions through which large numbers of people travel to and fro, one of the group leaders would stand atop a staircase or any other raised platform and deliver a short speech. People would gather in large numbers to listen and often, animated political discussions would follow.
The campaigners were all comrades and friends of the candidate, activists of the Lok Raj Samiti, who voluntarily gave their time, energy and resources, consciously understanding that this was a campaign for a candidate with a promise of a better future. There were no hired campaigners. The large numbers of youth in the group, singing, cheerfully raising slogans, handing out leaflets and talking to the people helped to create an inspiring atmosphere, unlike many of the other campaigns which were marked by a spirit of despondency in the current political scenario.
This campaign is a striking example of a new kind of politics, opposed to the divisive politics of the Congress, BJP and others entrenched in the existing system. It reflects a new kind of relationship between people and the candidate who seeks to be their elected representative. It provides a glimpse of what a modern democratic system ought to be.