Living in penury and hardly being able to make two ends meet has not prevented a 60-year-old rickshaw puller from jumping into the poll fray.
Mahinder Singh is contesting the January 30 Punjab Assembly polls from Amritsar (East) as an Independent.
Following his daily routine,he gets up early and quickly goes around looking to pick up the ‘sawaaris’ (passengers) so that he has some money at the end of the day to feed his family.
For most part of the day,Singh,father of four children,takes his tastefully decorated rickshaw to seek votes in the constituency,from where the main contestants include BJP’s Dr Navjot Kaur,wife of Amritsar MP,Navjot Singh Sidhu.
When asked what prompted him to contest,Singh wearing a dejected look,said,I am fed up with this system. With so much time having passed since the country gained Independence,lives of poor people like me remain unchanged. If I don’t earn for a day,my family will starve. I want to change this system.
Look where the prices have touched,what will a poor man do, Singh,who lives in Maqbulpura area and has two sons and two daughters,besides his wife whom he has to take care of,said.
Son of a labourer,Singh was born in Barkia Karea village near Lahore,Pakistan,and migrated to India along with his family after the country’s partition.
It is not just Singh who wants to change the system,a young candidate,a staunch believer in the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi,is also testing his electoral luck from Amritsar (West) constituency.
Sham Lal Gandhivadi (29) is contesting as Bharitya Chaitnya Party candidate and is up against Congress’ Dr Raj Kumar Verka and BJP-SAD combine’s Rakesh Gill among others.
Like Singh,Gandhivadi starts his day early. People immediately recognise him as he wears a Khadi dress and a ‘Gandhi’ cap.
He pedals several kms every day canvassing in his constituency riding on a bicycle.
Gandhivadi had contested the 2009 Lok Sabha polls from Amritsar and managed to get 1,494 votes.
He also rues alleged lack of development in his constituency.
Only hollow promises and slogans are made by the politicians. I fail to understand whenever a VVIP visits any area,roads and other development works are carried out in a matter of two-three days. If same sincerity is shown,entire Punjab can become a shining example of development, he says.
He says he is a follower of Mahatama Gandhi and wants to propogate what he believed in.
Gandhiji once said real India lives in its villages. Why then are our villages neglected. Why have we forgotten the sacrifices made by our freedom fighters and why do politicians put development at the back burner when they come to power while mudslinging and trading charges with opponents seems to take precedence, he said.
If I am elected,I will use cycle as mode of transport in my constituency and take up people’s problems on priority, he added.