On the Campaign Trail-11: May 7 Bhopal: Door to Door Campaign in Jhopadpatti
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.