Ahead of elections on April 17, Prof Shripad Dekhne is a man on a mission. A professor at Tikaram Jagannath College of Arts, Science and Commerce at Khadki, it was the ideology of the BJP that prompted him to dedicate two months for the party as a ‘media liasion official’ ahead of the elections.
He finished his portions well in advance to take a two-month break to devote himself to his new role. Arranging campaigns, rallies, permissions, press meets and even interactions with various media houses, Dekhne sir, as he is fondly referred to by peers and students, has done it all.
“I was ready to work for the party in whatever capacity and after some training sessions, I was appointed as the western region media cell official. With the help of other party workers we have been managing the entire schedule of the Pune candidate (Anil Shirole) as well visits and press meets of all senior leaders as well as the Modi sabha,” said Dekhne.
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Starting at 7 am and working until midnight, the work is hectic – he has to regularly interact with the media and know the latest updates from the party. “Arranging press meets and even anchoring the meet and interacting with the media all the time, it was a new challenge every day as we as a team had to work out the schedules,” added Dekhne who has been associated with the party for 15 years.
As Dekhne had experience as an active member of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the professor found each day challenging and interesting. Being calm and having sound knowledge about the party helped – it was this nature that made it easy for the media to interact with him. With so much time dedicated to the party work, his wife and two daughters have hardly got to see him and interact with him. “They know that I am a committed person to my work, whether at the college or for the party. They help me by lending their support and understanding and they know that after the polls I will come back to my first role again,” says Dekhne. There are times when he does get hassled but it is never shown to the media. “That is the training given to us by convenor Madhav Bhandari and others ahead of the elections. We were taught to handle difficult situations as well as explain the party’s stand in the matter,” he adds.
So does he get any remuneration for the work? “I believe that if you are committed to an ideology and the party, there is no question of money. It is not only me but a few of us who have been working relentlessly for hours without thinking about any monetary benefits,” adds Dekhne. His college architect Mandar Ghate is another worker who has his own business which has taken a back seat as he is busy making sure that the interactions with the media go smoothly.
Rajesh Pande, too, entrusted his business to his wife and is actively working for the party. Ashish Mishra, an IT professional, is offering his voluntary services in IT-related campaign work.
“It was a good experience to work for your ideology. I am happy I was able to do it. I had leave so I could take a break for two months and after polling day, I get back to my role as a professor. However, I will be of help to the party whenever they require me,” adds Dekhne.
‘Responsibility is different daily as per the party’s need’
The Congress has a history of people devoting years to the service of the party whenever there is a need. Of the lakhs of party workers in the city, Ramesh Iyer of Rasta Peth has spent 30 years for the party since his college days in 1983.
Being a dedicated party worker, he, too, says it is the ideology of the party that has made him work for the Congress and there has never been a moment that he had to think of giving it up.
During election time, every party worker is expected to be on the field for election campaign. “The day starts early in the morning on the basis of responsibility entrusted by the party which is conveyed the previous evening. The responsibility is different every day and is as per the party needs,” says Iyer.
It is from distribution of pamphlets to voters, holding meetings with the communities, arrangements for public meeting, road shows and everything that is required at that moment, he said recalling that there is everything he had experienced while working for the party. The involvement is so much that they don’t even get time to eat when on field. “Whenever possible, I manage to have light meal to keep myself going. There is so much of excitement in working for the party that these things get ignored and the party has one good thing that the party colleagues take care of each other as a family member,” Iyer adds.
He says that his family supports his work. “The family has been understanding. They have never entrusted many family responsibilities on me during election time,” Iyer said, pointing out that hard work is always rewarded by the Congress.
Being a party worker, the party has entrusted him with various responsibilities and he has been appointed spokesperson of the party after working in various committeed. “I have been a member of student wing then youth wing and finally the parent body. I was given various posts in the city unit for my dedication for the party. However, the position defines the responsibility on me but a leader and party worker are same in the Congress where both have to do everything that comes for the party during elections,” Iyer said.
‘I will work for MNS professionally’
Advocate Sachin Pawar, (30), a member of the Maharashtra Navniram Sena (MNS), is among the youngsters who are putting in long hours in the election campaign for their candidate, Deepak Paigude. Pawar said he leaves home around 7 am and comes back at 2 am.
“From early morning to late night, I am busy contacting my friends, relatives and citizens through phone calls, SMS, WhatsApp and Facebook, updating them about our election campaign and why MNS is the best option for Pune,” he said.
“There is huge workload. There are many young activists like me who are working long hours… We do not have any specific responsibilities. But we ensure that party does not face manpower crunch. Jithe kami tithe aamhi (We fill in whereever required.). No rest for us till the voting is done. We help the MNS leaders in arrangements of road shows, public gatherings and padyatras,” he said.
Pawar is a staunch supporter of Raj Thackeray and Deepak Paigude. He was known to be a firebrand student leader when he was heading the Shiv Sena’s youth wing in S P College. Later, he left the Sena and joined MNS along with his political mentor Paigude. He was among the MNS activists who were arrested for attack on educational institutes that allegedly preferred giving admissions to ‘outsider’ students. He also handles some social projects of Paigude’s Lokseva Parivar.
Pawar was among the few MNS workers who were seen on stage along with party chief Raj Thackeray and senior MNS leaders at a recent election rally on the riverbed. “The MNS chief cares for party workers like me. He talks to us, guides us. I felt encouraged whenever he spoke to me,” he said. Asked about political aspirations, he said, “I have decided to dedicate my life to Lokseva Parivar. I have no aspirations to contest any elections in future. I have decided to work professionally for MNS.”