At 7.30 pm, a couple of hours after voting in the country has ended Monday, the Rajdhani Express from Rajendra Nagar in Bihar leaves Patna on its daily journey to New Delhi. Amit Sharma, 33, who boarded from the source station, is on his smartphone, checking exit poll predictions by TV channels. “They’re giving 290 to the NDA,” he smiles.
Sharma, originally from Patna, works in the sales and marketing team of a real estate developer headquartered in Gurgaon. He says he voted for the BJP in Gurgaon. He feels he has a better chance of saving his job if a stable government comes to power.
“There are no buyers,” Sharma says about real estate. “Financiers are holding on to their money hoping when Modi comes to power, the gloom will lift and buyers will return.” Trying to sell new units in Gurgaon and Greater Noida, Sharma says his targets had to be scaled down and the launch of a new project put off indefinitely late last year as it would not have fetched the expected rates.
“Many people were laid off in the last two years while many had to leave due to pressure. But soon companies also realised the market was to blame. So what happens on May 16 is important,” he says.
By 8.30 pm, the exit polls is the subject of discussions on coach after coach. Surya Kumar Pandey, 45, wants Bihar to gain its rightful place in the economy and is banking on the next government.
“I read in the papers that the UPA pumped funds into Bihar. Hope the new government views Bihar as a potential asset and not a liability to the economy. The state has everything; it only needs good governance,” he says. Most exit polls predict Lalu gaining and the prospect does not excite him. Pandey, who left Bihar 15 years ago for a job in Delhi, says of Lalu’s reign, “Those were the times when Bihar was reduced to zero. Nitish Kumar is at least trying to get the state back on track. But if Modi comes to power, will he help Nitish rebuild Bihar?”
The Rajdhani Express is designed to be the epitome of Indian Railways’ service and performance. Frequent travellers on the busy, overnight route between Patna and Delhi say it fulfils its promise for the most part if you do not mind the rats scurrying under the seats, or the quality of the food. It’s a train of mostly Delhi-NCR residents going back after a brief stay at their home state. It also has some business travellers who frequent Delhi.
Patna resident Devendra Choudhary, 38, regional sales manager at a company importing surgical instruments, says the UPA never looked beyond statistics. “No one knew why exactly the rupee touched Rs 68 against the dollar a few months ago. Large orders were cancelled, deliveries put on hold indefinitely, and I have seen long-standing business relations snapping overnight thanks to mounting losses. We are still bleeding,” he says.
Choudhary will attend client meetings in Delhi. “I hope to tell the clients tomorrow that look, a new government is coming, so you might have a better budget for procurement in six to eight months and who knows, with more volumes, we might be able to get better import rates as well. It’s definitely a win-win situation for all,” he says.
Mughalsarai arrives around 10.30 pm. Most passengers get on with the practised drill of preparing their beds. The forgettable food has been served and eaten.
Twenty-six-year-old Ashutosh Sinha from Patna is far from sleepy. He is poring over his laptop, preparing for a job interview in Gurgaon, his second since December. An MBA from a smaller institute in Delhi, he quit his earlier job with a telecom firm in August “for personal reasons”.
“I stay with my sister in Delhi, otherwise I would’ve had to go back to Patna and try from there. Our parents back home get tense as no one seems to be hiring at the moment,” he says. “I am not really interested in politics. But I hear companies will start hiring after the elections,” he says.
The train has left Allahabad to rush towards Kanpur a couple of hours away, the last stop before Delhi.
“Not many seats for AAP, it seems. Not surprising,” says Delhi resident Himanshu Sharma, a loan agent. Sharma, like many of his friends in Paschim Vihar in West Delhi, had voted for the AAP in Delhi assembly polls.
He says he made amends in the LS polls by not voting for the AAP, but won’t say who he voted for.