NEW DELHI — More than 80 people —several of them unemployed — attempted to file their nominations to contest the upcoming assembly election from New Delhi, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s constituency. According to data available on the Election Commission website, 54 of these nominations were rejected, leaving 34, including Kejriwal, in the fray.
The number of aspirants who wanted to try their luck in Kejriwal’s constituency was almost thrice that of the other seats.
While the chief minister’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was quick to allege a conspiracy, Kejriwal himself told ABP News that he was glad that so many people wanted to fight elections. “We had tea and chatted away for seven hours,” he told the reporter.
The people of Delhi will vote to choose their next government on 8 February, and results will be announced on 11 February.
HuffPost India spoke to 9 men and women who attempted to file their nominations from the CM’s constituency but were rejected. All of them insisted that they wanted to fight elections of their own volition, and their act was a protest against the Delhi government as well as other political parties in the fray — namely Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) — for not being able to provide them with jobs.
Except one, all these men and women had filed their nominations on either 20th January or 21st January, the day Kejriwal filed his.
All the prospective candidates we spoke to have listed their income as ‘nil’ or ‘not applicable’ in the nomination form, including that of their spouses or fathers and dependents. The form asks applicants to list their total income as shown in their income tax returns, which is mandatory only if your annual income is above Rs2.5 lakh.
25-year-old Niranjan Kumar has been trying to find a job for the past five years, but has not managed to find anything that assures a regular income. He said he has completed high school, but did not have the resources to pursue higher education. He has done odd jobs, including working as a domestic help for a few years before the family moved away. “I will do any job, and I have been trying to get any small government job but have not found anything,” he said.
Ajay Krishan is 34 and has cleared his Class X exams and says he suffers from an eye disease which has damaged his eyesight partially. His 60-year-old father and 38-year-old brother both work as daily wage labourers at construction sites.
“Kejriwal said he would find jobs for the youth, where are those jobs? Yes, there is a lot of free stuff like water but how will we feed ourselves with that? We need jobs,” Krishan said. He said he tried his hand at selling insurances and getting people loans for a bit and can do office work.
Sixty-year-old Virender Saxena too filed his nomination, only to be rejected like the rest. A man identified as his ‘relation’ said Saxena runs a ‘small business’ which was not doing too well.
Neither Krishnan nor Kumar were impressed with the ruling BJP government’s track record on jobs either, but said they wanted to send Kejriwal a message that his voters are suffering. They also insisted that nobody had instigated them to file nominations.
But how were they planning to fight an election without money?
“If our nominations would have been accepted then at least people would come forward and give Rs5-10 to help us fight an election, isn’t it. They’d know one of their people is fighting for their demands,” Krishnan said, adding that he would fight an election against the BJP as well, given an opportunity.
Both the men, said they were doing it for the ‘first time’, so filed the nomination on the last day when Kejriwal was supposed to.
Yashoda, the mother of a four-year-old child, also submitted her nomination from Kejriwal’s constituency, but hers was rejected because her paperwork wasn’t in place. Insisting that no one had asked her to file nomination papers, she said no political party — AAP or BJP — was doing anything for them. The 35-year-old said she has been unemployed for a few years now.
Prior to that, she was working as a security guard at a government hospital under a contract with a private security agency. It was not a permanent job and the company hired them as and when they received contracts.
“I have not got a call from them in the past two-three years after the first job ended. And when I worked there, a chunk of my salary went to middle men who help us get these jobs with these companies. So now I have no money,” Yashoda told HuffPost India.
She said that Kejriwal had promised that he would put an end to the culture of middle-men, but people like her still have to go through them.
“He has made hospitals, electricity, water free. Travelling in buses is also free for women, but without jobs, what will we eat?” she said.
While the AAP government has been praised for its work in improving government schools, Yashoda said that she still faces a big problem because of school staff who do not care about children.
“My son is three years old. One day, he urinated in his clothes because the toilet was engaged. The whole day the teacher did not care about letting me know or give him a change of clothes. He was wet all day. It happens to small children all the time, they could get fever and fall sick like this, there’s no ayah,” she said. Yashoda’s husband works as a daily wage labourer and has an erratic income.
She did not have any complaints against the BJP, but said she did not have faith in them as well. “No one has given us any jobs. Else why will a mother like me want to fight an election?” she said.
Sarita holds a bachelors’ degree from Delhi University and a BEd. She has taught in local schools but said she has been trying to get a job as teacher in a government school for 4-5 years. According to her, after failing to qualify for a teacher recruitment exam by just ‘two-three’ marks, she applied for other government jobs, but never got a call. “I am educated, don’t I deserve any job?” she said.
The 37-year-old’s husband works a low-paying job at a construction firm and the couple have two children. “I have heard there are no teachers in government schools. Here I am not getting a job, and there are apparently posts lying vacant,” she said.
What does Sarita think about AAP’s opponent BJP? “I don’t know what they can do,” she said.
Twenty-nine-year old Beerwati holds an MBA degree from an open university and has been unemployed for the past five years.
“The vacancies for so many government jobs are not being filled, exams are not being held on time,” Beerwati’s brother Prem, an MBBS student at a government hospital in Delhi, told HuffPost India. “There are so many posts lying vacant in any government office you go to, we have to make rounds of places because there aren’t enough people, and an educated woman like my sister is unemployed,” he said.
Both Beerwati and Prem insisted that no one ‘asked’ them to file nominations and also added that they do not have any hope from BJP either, so they wanted to fight on their own.
Fifty-three-year old Prem Lata Gupta, whose nomination too was rejected, couldn’t explain why she wanted to file a nomination or went to do a paper work on the last day. If she decides to respond, HuffPost India will update the copy.
Fifty-five-year-old Bimla Arya, who also filed her nomination on 21st January, said she was urged by people she worked with, in the capacity of a ‘social worker’ in the vicinity, to run for the election. “I have helped a lot of people on behalf of Ramdev’s Patanjali and worked with them. After knowing me for a while, they grew fond of me and wanted me to run for election,” Arya said. While Arya mentioned in her form that she had no income, her husband recorded an annual income of approximately Rs 6-7lakh a year for the past few years.
Aarti Prajapati, a ‘social activist and fashion designer’ said she wanted to challenge Kejriwal but, according to her Facebook page which has 34,000 followers, also to prove a point to the BJP. One of her posts read: “BJP has sapped the Prajapati community on its face by not giving us a ticket. They will have to pay for this.”
Her nomination was rejected as well.
AAM AADMI PARTY RESPONSE
Aam Aadmi Party spokesperson and MLA Saurabh Bharadwaj told HuffPost India that the returning officer of the Election Commission had informed him that for a few days before the last date of filing nominations in Delhi, 50-55 people would turn up seeking to run for elections. “Usually the office has to handle no more than 5-6 people a day. Suddenly all these people started turning up, so they began giving them tokens to submit their papers,” he said.
Bharadwaj said that on 20th, Kejriwal had a road show and was supposed to file his nomination that day and the RO informed him that around 50 people had taken tokens and turned up but all of them did not file their nominations. When the CM did not turn up, they left.
“The next day too, the same thing happened. So the CM sat there with 40 people and some of them also shouted unflattering things directed at him. But we don’t have the time or interest to investigate these things,” Bharadwaj said.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.