Asha has been voting for last 40 years and Kumar for 19 years. They admit getting gifts and cash before elections, but they say it never affect their decision to vote
Jasleen Kaur | November 26, 2013
She was just 15 years old when she got engaged to a man living in Delhi.
And when she turned 18, she remembers travelling hundreds of kilometres, to cast her first vote, for Delhi municipal corporation election, 41 years back.
She lived in a village in Gujarat and came all the way with her father to cast her vote, before her marriage. “My father-in-law had added my name in the ration card and even got my voters card. He had asked my father to bring me here for elections. Many people in my village had opposed my visit to in-laws house before marriage,” says Asha, now 59 years.
She did not even know the significance of voting at that time, she says. “My father-in-law had told me to put stamp in front of hand. I just did that.”
But now it is a rule for her to vote in each and every election. She has been a regular voter and has always inspired her next generation to vote as well.
Asha says earlier it was a difficult task for the party workers and election officers to convince people especially women, to come out of their homes and vote.
“Standing in the same queue with their elders was not something women could think to do. But this has changed in the last few years. Now everyone participates in the election.”
The only time she did not vote was the last assembly elections when the biradari had decided to boycott the elections.
“The MLA sometimes helps us and sometimes he does not. You can see these cemented roads; they were in very bad condition. They have been made just two months back. Though they have covered the open drains but have also closed the nallis. Where would water go? I don’t know till how long this will remain in good condition. But that does not mean we would not vote.”
For all these years, Asha has just voted for one party. The reason was the tradition started by the elders in her family. Though, she admits, the time has changed a lot in the last 40 years. “There is a lot of difference in leaders of that time and of present. They were true leaders. Today most of them are corrupt and are just working for themselves.”
For Asha, who collects old clothes from residential colonies in exchange of steel utensils, election has not just been a time to participate in the electoral process, but also an opportunity to earn, and get free gifts.
All the parties, she says, has lured her through freebies.
“In the last election, they (the workers of the opposition party) gave Rs 500 and 2 kg of Ghee to each and every woman in the area. All the women took it, but later the biradari had decided not to vote at all.”
That was not the first time she was offered gifts from political parties, it is a usual exercise during elections, she says. But she emphasised that her decision to vote is never affected by this.
“Har party aa kar kuch na kuch deti hai – ghee, paise. Jo bhi mile hum le lete hai, lekin hum vote nahi bechte, vote to usi ko dete hai jisse hamara man ho. (All parties come and offer us money, ghee etc. I take them. But I do not sell my vote)
Asha never got an opportunity to study and make best of her life. But, she says, she would never play with the future of her children by selling her vote.
“Vote bechna matlab bacho ke bhavishya se khelna. Mere vote ki ehmiyat hai. Isse sarkar banti hai. Bech kaise sakti hu isse?” she asks.
(If I sell my vote, I will be putting future of my children at risk. My vote has a lot of significance. It makes the government. How can I sell it?)
She adds, “Electoral process is the only time when we are counted. Five years, we fold our hands, bow are heads to get some work done. But now it is their turn to do the same to ask for our votes. That means our vote is important. So when they offer us something, we do not hesitate in taking it. But we vote for the person we believe in.”
The elections, in the past, have also given Asha an opportunity to earn by participating in the campaigning. From Rs 300 to Rs 500, along with lunch, is what the parties offer, for walking with the candidate and shouting slogans for a day. “Most of the party workers are not from our area. So they ask us to walk along with them. But we can’t do it for free.”
With just two weeks left for Delhi to go to polls, no party has contacted her for campaigning so far. Only the new party (Aam Aadmi Party) came to her a week back. “They came with broom in their hands. They even took Rs 10 from me and asked me to pledge my vote for them. I said yes but I haven’t decided anything yet. It is a new party I don’t know whether it will be able to do anything or not.”
No newspaper in the household
Asha has never read a newspaper, but she watches all the news channels and is aware of the major discussion happening on television. “Everyone is talking about Modi. People say he would become the prime minister. He is connected with 600 villages. And then they talk about increased prices of onion and tomato.”
37 years old Shiv Kumar, living in jhuggis of Raghubir Nagar, hails from Rewari in Haryana but he calls himself a Gujarati.
Kumar’s family first lived in the jhuggis of Sultanpuri in east Delhi, his birth place, before shifting here 25 years back. Kumar, who buy old clothes from the Mandi, repairs and resale them, has always participated in the electoral process. He says ‘matdan’ (so far the first person to use the word) is priceless, which nobody can buy.
He adds, “Matdan bahut kiimati hai. Ye hamara haq hai. Ek ek vote se sarkar ban bhi sakti hai aur gir bhi sakti hai. Isse dalna to bahut zaroori hota hai. Apne neta chunenge tabhi to vikas hoga.” (Voting is priceless, this is our right. A single vote can make or break the government. That is why it is important to vote. When we select the leader, then only development would happen).
He too has been lured by political parties with the freebies in the past elections. “Aatta, ghee, paise, ye sab milta hai. Hum le bhi lete hai. Bacho ke kaam aata hai. Par iske badle vote nahi dete. Vote apni marzi se dete hain.” (We get flour, ghee and money during elections by political parties. We take them for our children. But we do not vote in return. We vote with our own will.)
For Kumar, elections are also the time when he would not be asked to vacate the jhuggi. “A year before and after election, nobody talks about it. Otherwise there is always this fear that they would ask us to go from here,” says Kumar, who lives with his wife, two daughters and a son. He recently took a loan from a cooperative, run by an NGO, to renovate his jhuggi.
For him, his voter card is as precious as his wife’s jewellery. The family keeps it in the safe along with other valuable things of the family.
“Both our cards (his and his wife’s) are laminated, wrapped in a plastic cover and is kept in the safe. We keep its copies with us for use. Election card is taken out only on the day of election,” he says.
While he still takes interest to know the candidates fielded by parties, for his wife, Rupi Shiv Kumar, 34 years old domestic worker, it is only the opinion of her husband that decides her vote.
“I do not even get time to watch television. But he knows who the right person is,” she says.
While the issues of corruption and inflation affect Kumar and his family, but he says he vote for his MLA who has helped them in the past. “This was an open Nallah, but he (the sitting MLA) got it covered. I vote for the person who works for us.” For him, the party symbol is more significant than the candidate for deciding his vote. “We would vote for ‘haath’. The sitting MLA has done a lot of work. But still the party did not give him the ticket. They did not let a person with a criminal record contest. Though the seat would remain in the same house,” he said. (His wife has got the ticket instead)
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