Jasleen Kaur | December 4, 2013
Though the election commission approved the new right to reject option a long time ago and claims to have advertised a lot about it, for many people living in Raghubir Nagar it is a new concept. And for those who know about it, it is not an option at all.
Reena, a community worker, associated with an NGO working for women empowerment, said the much-talked-about “none of the above” (NOTA) option will encourage voters to participate in the electoral process. “We are encouraging people who do not vote to vote this time and use this option,” she said. “People here are not educated and do not read newspapers. The election commission should have used methods to advertise about this concept.
“They watch television, but hardly have any information on NOTA. We are telling that they must vote and can press NOTA if they do not like any candidate.”
Stressing that he is hardly impressed by the new option introduced by the election commission, another resident, Shiv Kumar, said, “I have always voted for our pradhan, and I would do that this time as well. I don’t know about others, but I trust him.” Kumar, who heard about NOTA in television news, added, “Why should I waste my vote by pressing any such button?”
His wife, who just knows about the leaders she would be voting for on Wednesday, was unaware of any such option. “My husband has told me whom we have to give our vote. I would go and press that button.”
“Chunavi mela” comes to end
As campaigning ended for the Delhi Assembly elections on Monday evening, parties made a last-minute rush to grab voter's attention. Workers and volunteers of all three main parties – the ruling Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) – tried their best to keep their voters happy on the last two days.
“There had been a lot of noise in the last two days. The candidates did not come but their supports came. All of them requested us to vote for them,” Raghubir Nagar resident Bhishan, 46, said on Tuesday (December 3) evening.
According to him, most people have already decided whom to vote for, and the others would decide as The Time closes in. “Majority of votes here goes to our pradhan. But there are some who are thinking again, because this time his wife is contesting,” Bhishan said.
Bheem Sen, 65, pointed out the lack of development in the area: “He (the local MLA) had promised the last time that he would make sewer in the jhuggis (slums), but did nothing of the sort in the last five years. People, however, are still thinking of voting for him. And those who are not, they would change their plan after seeing the majority.”
“Confident” that only their pradhan would keep his promise, Rajesh, 32, said: “Many parties and their candidates have come to us in the last ten day. Some promised plots and some said they would make toilets. But I do not believe anyone except our pradhan. He has ensured that the work of sewer would be done soon after elections.”
Cash for vote
It is no secret that votes in the slums are often decided with the help of cash distributed, and the jhuggis of Raghubir Nagar in west Delhi are no different.
Usha, 48, a community worker, said cash has been distributed to women by two party candidates a day before the campaigning wound up. She said that many women have been given Rs 1000. “Unlike last time, they did not come here. They called women to a nearby place to distribute it (cash),” she said.
Gauri, a domestic worker, alleged that both the main parties had promised cash before elections. “Many of them got it but I couldn’t get any. They had asked women to bring their documents along. I was out for work and missed it.”
Refusing to talk about it, Mani, her neighbour, said, “What is the value of Rs 1,000 today? Everything costs a bomb...it would be over in a day!”
Leela-behn, an octogenarian residing in the slum colony for years, angrily said, “Agar le bhi liya toh kya ho gaya? Neta log kitna paisa loot-tein hain, garibo ne thoda le bhi liya to kya bigad gaya?” (What is the problem even if we have taken the money? The politicians take a lot of money, what if we poor people have taken some?)
However, Gauri added that unlike last time, the money has not been distributed to everyone: “They told everyone to bring their photo identity cards and they took pictures. And then only they gave the money, because many people did not vote last time.”
Less than 24 hours to go
It was a usual day in the jhuggi. An evening before the elections, women were busy preparing food, while children were playing.
If there would be no party pamphlets lying on the floors, or children wearing caps, it would have been difficult to say people here were going to cast their vote the next day.
With less than 24 hours to the Delhi Assembly polls, people were confident of their pradhan’s win. “The election mela (fair) has ended. People have done what they wanted to do. Now time would tell who wins,” said Shiv Kumar, 37, who repairs old clothes before selling them. “Ab toh faisle ka din aaya hai (it’s the day of reckoning now).”
There is a widespread belief among people that the present pradhan’s wife would win the election. As the day wound up on December 3, the slum dwellers silently prepared to go out vote in large numbers the following day. “Jiska namak khaya hai ab chukana to padega,” said Koki, a 45-year-old domestic worker, making it amply clear that her vote would go to the pradhan’s family.
Although people are sure of their pradhan’s win, there is a bit of apprehensive as well.
Asha, 40, who sell steel utensils, is apprehensive that if the other party wins they would stop issuing ration cards in the name of women, which was started by the Sheila Dikshit government. “The card is on our name now. We get a lot of benefits because of that. Our pradhan has told us that it’s all because of Sheila-ji. We would stop getting the benefits if the other government comes in power.”
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