THE DARK staircase leads to a flat on the third floor. Behind the door is Jaya Bala Carunia, who exclaims: “Of course, that’s my party. Do come in.”
Flat number 21 D, in the DDA colony of Everest Apartments in South Delhi’s congested Kalkaji Extension, figures on the Election Commission’s latest list of 255 delisted parties. This is the home of Akhil Bhartiya Janata Vikas Party, Carunia’s labour of love from the past. “It was a long time ago. I founded it and even fought elections. Why are you asking now?” she asks.
The ABJVP’s founder-president — now almost 70, sporting bright silver hair — lives alone in her one-bedroom apartment amid old furniture and a room full of “stuff” accumulated over the years. Inside, the tubelight is not working, a 40-watt bulb barely lights the room, and a 21-inch TV is beaming the news.
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The sun has sunk but Corunia is wearing dark glasses after having undergone a cataract operation Wednesday. She apologies for the dankness of the room. “I have always worked alone,” she says.
Then, she starts listing her political milestones.
”I formed the party in 1993 after I got around 2,000 votes standing against L K Advani in New Delhi. I funded it with my own money,” she claims.
Carunia says her rollercoaster political ride began in 1991 with the “defeat to Advani”. After forming the party, says Corunia, she fought D P Yadav during the UP strongman’s heydays in his backyard in Sambhal.
”I stayed there for a year in 1995 and sold one of my three flats to build a bridge for the villagers in Dagroli, around 25 km from Gajrola. Then, I contested against Yadav in 1996. I got 25,000 votes. The villagers loved me,” she says while admitting that she does “get a bit confused about the dates”.
Before that, Carunia says, she had fought an “MLA election” in Tughlakabad when BJP’s Ramesh Bidhuri was in fray.
Carunia says her performance in Sambhal got her noticed in the power circles of Delhi.
“I joined BJP in 1997 and later shut down my own party. What was the need?” she asks.
Indeed, on one wall of her home is a framed photograph of a young Carunia with Advani. On the wall opposite is a frame of her with former prime minister A B Vajpayee. There’s an image of Jesus, too.
According to Carunia, she is a trained pharmacist and the only child of a couple from Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu. “I spent seven years in Saudi Arabia before trying my hand in politics. The money I earned in the Gulf was spent on buying three flats in Kalkaji in the early 1990s. One is this flat, the other I gave away to a friend and the third I sold to build that bridge,” she says.
Carunia says the Election Commission kept sending her letters every year even after she had folded up her party. “I sent a letter to them informing that my party was winding up. But every year, they kept sending letters. Finally, I stopped keeping track,” she says.
According to Carunia, the BJP made her a key member of its women’s wing, Akhil Bhartiya Mahila Morcha, and also head the party’s Christian cell in Delhi.
Above the front door of her flat hangs the BJP’s lotus symbol. It’s dusty and old. “I left politics long ago. But I support Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” she says, before pumping a clenched fist in the air.