False promises and all that
Like most of her neighbours, Parmeelaben’s family too is in the business of recycling old clothes, collecting them door to door, and offering new steel utensils in exchange.
Now in her 50s, Parmeelaben came to Delhi from a village in Ahmedabad in Gujarat after her marriage, 35 years ago and has been staying in Raghubir Nagar, a resettlement colony in west Delhi. She shares her two bedroom house with her husband and son’s family.
With only a television, two tube lights and fans in the name of electrical appliances, the family has paid electricity bills as high as Rs 2,500 a month, she says, adding that it did affect the family’s monthly budget immensely.
The story however, has been different in the last two months. ‘The bill has almost reduced to half and we have saved a lot of money,’ says Parmeelaben.
‘I did not vote for the jhaadu (broom, which is the symbol of the Aam Aadmi Party) but they did help us. We did not have to go anywhere to beg for this (reduced electricity bill),’says Parmeelaben, who is now worried about the electricity bills again shooting through the roof with the party out of power.
‘We did not vote for him (Arvind Kejriwal) but we wanted him to continue as the chief minister,’ she says disappointed.
Former Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal had slashed the power tariffs by 50 per cent up to 400 units of power a month when his party was in power for 49 days in Delhi.
For Parmeelaben, voting is not just essential to ensure her name is not deleted from the voter’s list but also a means of ‘giving back’ to the leader who worked for them.
‘I am yet to decide whom to vote for. Kejriwal’s government has helped us here but our family in the village is very happy with the development done by (Narendra) Modi. He has provided good education, water and food for everyone,’ says Parmeelaben, who has been a Congress voter for long.
Her neighbour 40-year-old Manju, a housewife, had also not voted for Kejriwal in the assembly elections but plans to support him in the upcoming general elections. Bijli ka bill kam hua hai. Rs 2,000 se kam hokar Rs 700 tak aa gaya hai. Bahut bachat ki hai humne (Our electricity bills have gone down drastically from Rs 2000 we paid earlier to Rs 700 now and so we have been able to save a lot),’ she says.
‘We never thought he would actually do what he promised. He can help people like us but he cannot do everything alone,’ she adds.
Manju, who has been casting her vote for the last many years, says this is perhaps the first time when a leader has actually helped them after winning an election. ‘He brought immediate relief to us,’ she says.
With the Lok Sabha elections just round the corner, 48-year-old Mangal Pandey keeps a close watch on all the election related action through television.
Pandey, a native of Bihar, came to Delhi in 1984, in search of work. Currently, Pandey earns his livelihood by selling cooked rice and curry from a bench which serves as his makeshift counter. While lacking any formal education, Pandey understands the importance of his vote. His vote, he says, is more important for the country than for him personally. ‘We earn our living by selling food and that is sufficient for us. But it is important to vote and choose the right person for our country and its future,’ he says. He adds, ‘today farmers are killing themselves but the government is not doing anything for them. It is important that we vote for the right person.’
Meanwhile, for Govind, 55, who hails from Gujarat and is engaged in selling steel utensils in exchange for old clothes, elections are not just another time to listen to tall promises made by political parties. ‘Bharosa to sab dete hai par kaam koi nahi karta (everybody assures us of various things but nobody fulfils these promises). But the AAP government helped us a lot. They kept their promise of providing cheap electricity to people like us.’ However, he is quick to add that a lot of the people are now disappointed with the party. ‘They think he has become greedy like other leaders for the prime minister’s post.’
While Govind is assisted by his wife in the business, they haven’t involved their two sons for want of a better future for them, he says. One of his sons, a class 10 pass out, is not able to find any work and this has left the parents disappointed. ‘Gareeb ko bheekh nahi chahiye, kaam chahiye (the poor don’t want alms and are only looking for work). The government should focus on creating job opportunities but they hardly think about people like us,’ Govind complains.
Ask him about Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and Govind is quick to reply that while there is a Modi wave all around, he will think hard before deciding his vote. ‘We have lived our lives and it is time to give a better future for our children through our votes. It is important and we will use it properly,’ he says.