Unheard Voices

In a recent report by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), 556 out of 1336 candidates contesting 2022 MCD election have properties in crores. But there are also a few candidates who are hard-pressed but are hoping against hope

Fighting odds: Jeetendra campaigning for the upcoming elections

As the date of MCD elections approached, top political parties, organisations and independent candidates boosted their campaigns with huge banners, posters, gifts, free food and rallies. But a few of them stayed in a corner due to their limited resources.

“I opted to participate in the MCD elections to bring a change that I wasn’t able to while being a journalist,” stated Yogesh Swamy, 40, a candidate fielded by the Revolutionary Workers’ Party of India (RWPI) from Karawal Nagar West.

Yogesh, who holds a degree in mass communication from the University of Delhi, got disheartened by the corporatisation of news and media and  preferred not to remain a mainstream journalist.

Those were the days when he started working in close contact with Shaheed Bhagat Singh Library and the Naujawan Bharat Sabha in Karawal Nagar.

“I live in Karawal Nagar and thus the story of my activism begins with my struggles in the area. I, along with my comrades, started pointing out the basic issues of roads and sanitation under the banner of Sadak Sangharsh Samiti. We protested in front of Sheila Dikshit, the then chief minister of Delhi, and her son Sandeep Dikshit – the then MP from our area. This movement, which dates back to 2007-08, resulted in proper construction of roads in Karawal Nagar,” Yogesh said while narrating his journey as a political activist.

“Then, we took up the issue of education in the area. Government schools were in the worst possible conditions, and thus we started the School Bachao Abhiyan and simultaneously I started teaching the students of the area at a minimal fee of Rs 50,” Swamy continued.

“We have been continuously working for the betterment of our area for the past 10-15 years. The parties which are in power have been corrupt to a larger extent, and thus there emerged the need for our own representation in politics, and thus I decided to participate in elections,” he added.

Yogesh Swamy has been contesting elections since 2017, when he filed the nomination for the then MCD elections. He has been an independent candidate in the Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections as well, and plans to contest the upcoming elections until the voice of the workers of Karawal Nagar is heard.

RWPI has fielded another candidate from Shahbad Dairy as well.

Aditi, who has been working as a tuition teacher in the slums of Shahbad, told Patriot that she has been living in the area since 2016-17. “I am a member of the Delhi Gharelu Kamgar Union, and a leader in the area of Shahbad Dairy. In all these years, we have worked for the development of roads, better sanitation and education. However, the corrupt politics of the leaders with excessive wealth has always ignored our efforts and existence,” stated Aditi.

“But now with the idea of ensuring our well-being, as residents of this area, and making our voices heard by those who have surrounded themselves with huge walls of concrete, I decided to contest the MCD elections for the people,” she added.

“When none of these elected politicians were here during the pandemic, my comrades and I were running community kitchens in these areas,” Aditi continued as she walked across a narrow alley in the slum.

“You see these toilets, they are here because of our protests and movements, and when the MLA came to eat into our credits, he was forced to run away with palms on his face,” interrupted Bharat, a member of the RWPI, who is campaigning for Aditi in the area.

“We don’t have funds and monetary support like the big political parties, but we have our people and their trust. These areas are densely populated by daily wage workers and labourers, and we are working for them. We have a box to collect funds from them, and as the day ends we have something around 400 rupees in it, thanks to people’s support. Our leaders, if they win the MCD, will be taking the minimum wage and the rest of their salaries would be added to the development fund for their respective areas,” concluded Bharat, as they moved on with their door-to-door campaign.

A suspended sanitation worker 

Jitender Kumar, a candidate of CPI ML Liberation from the Ladosarai ward has been working as a sanitation worker for the past 17 years.

He was working as a contractual sanitation worker at Jawaharlal Nehru University as an employee of a private contractor, until he received a show-cause notice and was subsequently suspended for contesting the MCD elections.

“I have seen enough and I know the needs of my people. All of these politicians with lakhs and crores in their pockets have done nothing for us and we have been suffering for years. After trusting them multiple times, and them breaking my trust, I have finally decided to contest elections on my own, with the issues that I have faced, and the problems I have seen in my area,” he said.

“I haven’t missed my duty even for a single day since I filed my nomination for the MCD elections, but they have made it into an issue that my campaigns are hampering my duty which is a huge lie. You can check my signatures in the attendance register. All the campaigning is being done in my non-working hours. Don’t I have any right over my life, once I am done with my duty? Or is it not permissible for me to contest elections as a contractual sanitation worker?,” asked Jitendra.

“They think that they can stop me by suspension and other threats, but for me this election is about life and death. I belong to one of the lowest sections of the working class, with almost zero representation in the governing bodies. This is our turn to make decisions for ourselves, and I’ll fight for the sake of people’s well being,” concluded Jitendra as he prepared himself for the next campaign.

Ravi Rai, Secretary of CPI-ML Liberation in Delhi, told Patriot about the five CPI-ML candidates and their travails leading up to the MCD election. Rai is clear that his candidates are here due to their hard work and commitment, not because of their political connections or financial might.

Against the tide: None of Shaheen Parveen’s family members are in
politics

From roads to MCD

“Anil Kumar, who played a critical part in our effort to provide basic services and update the state of Narela hospital, helped us pull through, which made our organisation realise that he would be a good leader to head our campaign in the upcoming elections,” said Rai talking about his candidate from Bankner Ward No. 2.

Kumar, a native of Ara, Bihar, manages a provisional shop and has been engaged in social service activities in Bankner, where he lives with his wife, who conducts sewing lessons, his in-laws and four children.

“I’ve participated in several protests and rallies, thinking of it as a more peaceful method to achieve our aims, but it simply doesn’t seem to be enough. That’s when my constituents pushed me to run in the future elections,” said Kumar.

“Nobody in our constituency, including the Bharatiya Janata Party or the Aam Aadmi Party, has conducted any good work. When the Narela Hospital, the only government hospital in the entire area, was in complete disarray, no one paid any attention until we protested. The AAP government, however, opened two alcohol shops instead. This illustrates the current situation in our community, where healthcare is less important than alcohol, and that is the change we want to implement for the benefit of our future generations,” he exclaims.

Ravi Rai told Patriot that the other candidates from his party too belong to the working class. “Naushad from Sangam Vihar is a tailor by profession, while Sita Devi from Ashok Vihar is a slum dweller and owns a small shop in the area.”

Not a politician

Shaheen Parveen, a native of Patna, Bihar, is a homemaker fighting for people and holds a Congress party ticket from Jama Masjid Ward No. 85.

“I’m a middle-class woman with no political ties; my husband has a meat shop, and neither of my two children has any political clout,” she told Patriot.

“So this was all new to me, and I had no plans to enter politics,” she explained.

“But I’ve always wanted to help people and had worked for social welfare, and when Congress announced that they’d be giving a ticket to a female candidate, it was my son who encouraged me, and all of this happened. It’s like a blessing in disguise that I’ve been entrusted with the opportunity to work for the people of Jama Masjid.”

She further added, “I don’t know much about politics but I know about the issues that our public faces, especially what a woman has to go through everyday. I want to connect with these people on an emotional level and work on their problems rather than making false claims.

I’ve made a list of the issues that my party will work for over the next five years.

“My main focus is to work on healthcare, education, and infrastructure facilities, particularly the roads of Jama Masjid, as the community hall in our area is in disarray, and the people and I want to work together to improve it and make it free of charge for the public, provide them quality education and give them the standard of living they deserve.”

 

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Ali Fraz Rezvi covers heritage, history, literature and current social issues for the Patriot.