Daily Archives: May 22, 2019
Amit Shah: EVM का विरोध देश की जनता के जनादेश का अनादर है। हार से बौखलाई यह 22 पार्टियां देश की लोकतांत्रिक प्रक्रिया पर सवालिया निशान उठा कर विश्व में देश और अपने लोकतंत्र की छवि को धूमिल कर रही है। मैं इन सभी पार्टियों से कुछ प्रश्न पूछना चाहता हूं।
May 8, 2019: Running into the Adversary – an Interesting Experience
Today, at some point our coordinator, Vikas Jain had to take an hour off to finish his business work so he left Balbirbhai and me at Hotel J.W. Marriott to wait. While we were sitting in the lounge, the elevator doors opened and seven sophisticated ladies stepped out. One of them came close to us, noticed my Modi in America (from Sept. 2014) t-shirt and stopped in her tracks. She blurted out, “I was going to ask you to vote for Congress but you seem to be a Modi person.” I replied in affirmative and asked her why she was campaigning for Congress. She gave some feeble reasons like how Modi was a dictator, how women were unsafe in her rule, how farmers were compelled to suicide, etc. and I was countering her; I reminded her about Indira Gandhi’s emergency rule, Gandhi family’s hold on the party, etc. she was uncomfortable so she said, ‘you have to talk to our Neta (pointing to an older lady), I am a small neta.” My reply was ‘in our group, we are all workers, no one is a Neta.’
The so called Neta was quite abrasive and rude. She didn’t want to engage in a discussion. I told her that we could be civil and discuss our opinions rationally and that we didn’t have to agree with each other. While the junior neta was willing to talk, the elder one stopped her, saying they had a meeting to attend (most likely true) and that it was a waste of time to talk with us. somehow, I sweet-talked them into having a group photo and we parted with, ‘may the best Man (woman) win.’ She agreed to meet at the same hotel on 23rd to have a party paid for by the losing team. Only later on, I came to know that one of the ladies was Mrs. Digvijay Singh and one was his sister,
If Kejriwal were to see this photo, he would surely say, “Arre Bhai, Sub mile huye hain jee!”
May 8, 2019: Meeting with Trade Associations
An independent group was engaged in making systematic calls to the opinion makers, leaders of several organizations in the Bhopal constituency. The callers were trained to note down in detail their conversation and points/issues raised by the person at the other end. Then one young woman would call the person next day addressing his concerns. This created an impression that “someone cared enough to look into our concerns and call back.” Such leaders have a hold on several members of their organization/ association/group. This would hopefully translate into votes in favor of BJP candidate. The person who conceived the idea, put together a team and infrastructure, using his own funds without any show or pomp expects that his efforts would bring Sadhwiji 25,000 votes. His emissaries would visit these influential leaders for a one on one.
I was fortunate to be on this team for a day of campaigning. We met with the leaders and some merchants of four trade associations. These were Retail Merchants Association in Market 10, Sanitary and Tiles Merchants Association, Plywood Industry Association and Iron Merchants Association. Shri Vikas Jain, a successful builder and BJP’s local coordinator led our team. Another member was Shri Balvir Tandel, a BJP worker from Navsari, Gujarat. Almost all of the people we met over a four hour period were positive for BJP though they had some concerns about BJP’s performance at the local level.
This campaign was totally different than the one yesterday. Here we were meeting with people who were well to do and well informed. They were also upset with the Hindu Terror tag. They all promised that besides talking with their members, they would encourage all neighbors to vote and vote early.
All in all, this was a productive day.
May 7, 2019 in Bhopal: Door to door campaign in Jhopadpatti (Basti, Slum)
I had to make several calls to find out where I should report and what I should be doing. I walked down to Sadhwiji’s election office (in the same complex) and met the contact I was given, He bounced me off to someone else. There was real chaos and it seemed that they were overwhelmed by the influx of the volunteers and were not well prepared. There were volunteers from Gujarat, Maharashtra, Uttarakhand, Delhi, Karnataka, etc. One estimate was that there were 200 volunteers from out of state.
This was unusual but also natural because Bhopal had assumed national importance due to BJP fielding Sadhwiji strategically against a villain, Digvijay Singh who had a big role in giving currency to the phrase Hindu Terror.
As Amit Shah said, this is BJP’s Satyagraha against the manufactured Hindu terror. We felt that it was important to win this seat, notwithstanding lack of political acumen of Sadhwiji because a victory here would put to rest Hindu Terror narrative for good. On the contrary, a loss would cement the Hindu Terror allegation. This is what we hammered wherever we went.
A nearby bungalow was used as a dormitory for the volunteers. One day, there were more volunteers than could be accommodated so they put ou coats under a canopy in the open ground. The dormitory had a kitchen where the cooking was going on, on and on. Sitting on the ground with folded legs and eating simple food with fingers (no luxury of spoons) itself was an experience and told me how far we have moved away from the common man.
After an interminable wait from 10 am to 3:30 pm, during which I had a chance to meet Upama, sister of Sadhwiji who was coordinating on several fronts, I found a group that was about to leave for campaigning in a slum area. They had one seat available in the vehicle so I jumped in. Between two vehicles, we were 15-15 people. There were three ladies among us, two of which were “sadhwis”. There was also a guruji who had come from Maharashtra/Haryana.
We reached the chosen area shortly. I have forgotten the name of the Jhopadpati/jhuggi/slum but it was close to Chunar Bhatti area. The whole basti is on a hillock and going up and down was difficult; with debris around and water flowing down very narrow streets, there was always the danger of slipping. There were many bylanes and turns so it was easy to lose sight of your group if you fell behind as I often did as I stopped to talk with people and also take pictures.
While the houses (mostly one-room tenements) were in good shape, there was hardly any breathing space. lanes were so narrow that you had to walk single file at times. Though this kind of living conditions and much worse exist all over Bharat and I was not new to it, I kept wondering, when would the real Vikas reach to these people? We, as the campaigners talk about all the nice schemes, Balakot, and defense of the nation, etc., but could these mass of humanity eeking out a living on subhuman conditions, care about those things? Could they be bothered by whether it is NDA or UPA government ruling?
Our group was enthusiastic and we were distributing pamphlets to every door; some of us talked briefly with the residents but a majority were just interested in giving out the literature and moving on. There were periodic shouts of Jay Shree Ram. There were some residents, who were already active with BJP. Some were nonchalant and some were critical of the local government.
We finished the round of the basti in about half an hour. Then we came down to the main road and started giving out the pamphlets to the shop owners and the passersby. There was a tea stall cum house where a few ladies and men were sitting and our “Sadhwi” lady, who held some important post in Durgavahini in Delhi started talking about BJP (by this time, the rest of the group had moved on)and a couple of women pointed out BJP’s deficiencies. The sadhwi lost her cool and argued vehemently without any success. Finally, she scoffed at them, called them “Congressis” and said I know you guys would vote for Rahul. Then she left in a huff. I was witness to this most childish behavior. Such campaigners do more harm than good. I stayed back, talked with the group and apologized for the lady’s behavior. I made a point that we could differ but we could have civilized discourse. Those ladies said that they were visiting from another part of the state and had already voted and voted for BJP. Overenthusiastic campaigners are more dangerous than underperforming ones!
We ended the campaign by visiting the other side of the basti which was separated by a wall and was probably built later on. While people were praising their Congress municipal counselor Pravin Saxena in the first basti, here they were unhappy with him. An aged lady complained to us that she was a widow but didn’t get the pension. Upon further inquiry, I found that she had lost the death certificate of her husband and couldn’t apply for pension benefits. I explained to her about how an affidavit (“Dakhaka” in local parlance) can be made but she was resigned to the fate as she hailed from a bordering village from Maharashtra and didn’t have a support system. I also came to know that if one is over 60 years of age, one can’t register for the employment scheme.
When we were talking, there was a young Muslim woman selling bangles to the ladies there. As I was encouraging the ladies to vote for BJP, putting aside their local grievances, that Muslim lady said, Modi hi Aayega.
As I was about to leave, I saw one of my colleagues trying to convince a young man to vote for BJP. The guy was opposed to BJP, more likely a die-hard Congress supporter. It was interesting to note how negative campaigning takes place. When I asked him why he would vote for a non-BJP person he said,” my relative in such and such place told me that in his village BJP took out Rs.350 from the bank account of anyone who voted against BJP.” I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at the sheer ignorance of the gentleman.
This was the end of the day’s campaign. We tracked back two miles to the office, stopping in between to encourage street side vendors and hawkers to vote for BJP. Most of them had made up their mind to vote for BJP.
May 9, 2019, The last day in Bhopal: Meeting with Nishad community
Early this morning, my host Ajay Ji took me to his farmhouse situated about 20 KM outside of Bhopal. Farmhouses are not a big deal but the reason I wanted to go there was to see firsthand work done by Ajay Ji for the upliftment of the village. Three years back he had made a presentation at a GIBV seminar about his efforts to empower the villagers.
Ajay Ji has built three lakes to store rainwater, built a road, encouraged children to go to school and runs children’s camps. The success rate is quite high. Determination of one man can do wonders.
upon our return from the farmhouse, we went to the Hanuman temple in the development where I was staying. There I had a chance meeting with Sadhwi Pragya Ji who had come to offer an Aarati.
I also had the pleasure to meet with the young leaders one more time.
From electioneering point of view, my last day in Bhopal was mostly wasted. The day before, we had decided to meet at 2 PM, to go around to meet more business leaders. Since I was going to be home till then, the host insisted that I take lunch at their home before leaving. however, as I was about to sit down for lunch, I got a call that we had to leave right away (11:15 AM) and I should rush. So I skipped lunch and went over to the office. We piled in the car and were driven to where all government offices and secretariat are. At short notice, it was decided to canvass the government employees during their lunch hour and also have accompanying rickshaw with a P.A. system. There was already some confusion because Digvijay Singh was also supposed to be there for a rally, We waited for a long time while our leader tried to get the vehicle with the P.A. system to come where we were; it never happened. We wasted 90 minutes and in the meantime, Digvijay Singh’s caravan came in, so we decided to postpone the idea to next day. It was a super hot day, so a glass of cold sugarcane juice did wonders. Our leader contacted several businesses for setting up meetings but was not successful. So he left us at BJP election headquarters (different than Sadhwiji’s election office) to relax. The place had big air coolers but it was pretty much deserted. A couple of guys were taking a nap on sofas. maybe, rest were in the field.
finally, at 6:30 PM we were asked to go to a Muslim dominated area where a Hindu Nishad community (fishermen) lived. There are only a handful of families that live near the Muslim majority area but they were determined and strong. A group of lady volunteers that we had accompanied took the local ladies to go for door to door campaign in that difficult terrain.
I took an early morning flight back to Varanasi, this time, via Hyderabad!