How to fight elections with Rs 1,000 asset? Learn from poorest candidate in poll fray in Karnataka
Bengaluru, May 10: He proudly shares his name, Dilip Kumar, with the 95-year-old Bollywood legend, but the similarities end there itself. The namesake of the matinee idol is one of the 2,655 candidates trying his luck in the upcoming Karnataka Assembly elections, which has grabbed the nation's attention because of the "vulgar" amount of wealth being possessed by the aspiring legislators.
But 26-year-old Dilip (likes to be addressed by his first name) from Bengaluru, who is contesting his first election as an Independent candidate from the city's Bommanahalli constituency, is an "aberration" in the entire democratic process which has been sadly hijacked by money and muscle power.
Dilip stands out among the crowd of candidates because of his "poverty". According to a report released by the Karnataka Election Watch (KEW) and the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR)--the non-governmental organisations which work in the area of electoral and political reforms--Dilip is the poorest candidate in the May 12 Assembly elections with an asset of Rs 1,000.
The other two candidates with lowest assets are M Lakshmi (with Rs 2,000), a Jai Vijaya Bharathi Party candidate, contesting elections from Bengaluru's Rajajinagar constituency and Sreenivas S (with Rs 2,053), an Independent candidate, contesting polls from Mysore's Krishnaraja seat. In its report, the KEW and the ADR stated that there are 17 candidates who have declared zero assets.
Apart from the likes of Dilip and Lakshmi, who are a minority, it's raining moolah in the Karnataka Assembly elections, literally. As 883 (35 per cent) candidates out of 2560--analysed by the KEW and the ADR--are crorepatis, money seems to be flowing freely like Cauvery River (the lifeline of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu and a bone of contention between the neighbouring states as well) in the polls.
But the election has also thrown a lot of contrasts, which can't be easily oversighted. If Dilip, a social worker-turned-politician, with just Rs 1,000 is the poorest among the candidates, then Priyakrishna of the Congress, who is contesting elections from Govindarajanagar constituency in Bengaluru, is the richest person in the poll fray. His net worth is mind-boggling Rs 1,020 crore.
When OneIndia met Dilip while he was campaigning door-to-door in Begur Road in Bommanahalli, mostly a residential area, on Wednesday, the first-time contestant rejected the idea of having "money bags" to win elections.
"This is my first election. It is definitely not easy. I am contesting elections because I am passionate to work for my people, especially the poor ones, in my locality. I am born here (Bommanahalli) and raised here. I know the area like the back of my hand. When voters vote they don't see if a leader is rich or poor," says Dilip, who left his education after finishing his class ten because of financial constraints.
Dilip, whose father died when he was four and was raised by his mother Sharadamma who works as a peon in the office of the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) in the neighbourhood, has been working in cleaning garbage of Bengaluru with local NGOs for the last five years.
When asked who is funding his election, Dilip says, "It's my friends and well-wishers who are contributing money for my campaigning. An NGO, MRR Education Trust, has given me Rs 50,000 donation. That is it. I am keeping my campaigning low-key and relying on people's good will."
"As you can see I walk with my group of friends during canvassing. I don't have any vehicle for campaigning. I start my campaign early in the morning and take a break for a couple of hours and restart again after the sun goes down till late evening. I have printed pamphlets which I give to people when I visit their homes. Rest, we are hardly spending money," he adds.
Dilip admits that candidates pay cash and freebies to voters before elections. "I tell people not to take Rs 1,000-Rs 2,000 and give away five years of life to a corrupt and an inefficient person. Give me a chance, I will make Bommanahalli a model constituency," he adds.
Talking about his constituency, which has 4,05,039 registered voters, Dilip laments lack of infrastructural facilities in the nine wards of Bommanahalli. "Here we don't have a single good government school, college or hospital. Roads are in bad shape, traffic congestion is a 24X7 problem and garbage on roads is a major issue here. The area is full of garment factories and 70 per cent of population belongs to lower income group. They mostly work in garment factories and stay in slums."
Criticising the sitting Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA Sathish Reddy M of the constituency, Dilip says he has hardly done anything for the people in spite of being elected twice from Bommanahalli. "Most of his works are pending for long. The work in Begur road has been going on for the last six years. People here want the waste composting plant in Somasundarapalya operated by the Karnataka Composting Development Corporation to be shut. It is a main source of pollution. The residents in the locality are leading hellish life. If the plant is closed at least 4,000 households will be given a new lease of life," he says.
Interestingly, from Bommanahalli constituency out of the 19 candidates contesting elections, 11 are Independents. While three are from the major political parties--TR Prasad Gowda (from the Janata Dal (Secular)), Sathish Reddy M (from the BJP) and Sushma Rajagopala Reddy (from the Congress)--rest are from small parties.
Dilip denied that Independent players in the poll fray are usually proxy of big political parties to divide votes as is the general impression. "There might be a few, I am not. Here people know me well as I work with them. Since I am poor, I can't join any political party. I want to practice honest politics. I don't think about winning or losing," he says.
Dilip, who is always accompanied by his friend Harish Gowda, who works in a garment factory, says friends keep him going. Otherwise a quiet man, Harish intervened to say, "And your mother who is your constant pillar of support."