Ram Kishore’s battery-operated e-rickshaw stopped at a crossing on Altamash Marg near the Metro station in Noida, Sector 16. As the traffic light turned red, four men sporting BJP paraphernalia rushed forward, and one of them slapped two posters on the rear of the vehicle. The men then turned their attention to other e-rickshaws at the crossing.
Ever since poll season started in Uttar Pradesh, e-rickshaws in Noida have been sporting posters of political parties — whether they want to or not. Kishore has made his peace with it. “They don’t bother to take permission. And who will protest?” he said. A woman travelling in Kishore’s rickshaw said almost all political parties — but mainly the BJP and the SP — have been busy posting stickers.
“Walls, gates and now e-rickshaws — they don’t spare anything,” she said. Kishore said the only thing that’s different this time is that political workers don’t ask before they slap a sticker on the vehicle.
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Many e-rickshaw drivers, though, are thrilled to be contributing to the political campaign of their favourite party. One e-rickshaw, for example, has been painted saffron and green and rechristened Kamal Auto.
With Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s son Pankaj Singh contesting on a BJP ticket from Noida, and operating out of an office at Altamash Marg, party workers have also been distributing pamphlets and election gear to commuters on the road outside.
“We began pasting these stickers a few days ago. Our office is on this road, so we want vehicles to sport posters in support of Pankaj ji. We are pasting stickers only on unregistered vehicles, that’s why we don’t need their permission,” said Rajesh Sharma, one of the 30-odd BJP karyakartas lining Altamash Marg on Tuesday.
But BJP district vice-president Meena Bali told The Indian Express, “We are sticking posters only with people’s permission. Our party leadership has specified that no worker is supposed to paste stickers on public or private property unless the owner consents.”
When contacted, UP transport commissioner K R Naik said that “all government distributed or sanctioned e-rickshaws are registered with the transport department”.
“There may be violators, but they include those who have privately bought vehicles from uncertified companies. We regularly conduct drives to nab them,” Naik said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had promised about 1,000 e-rickshaws on easy installments to people in Noida and Ghaziabad last year. UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, too, has been distributing free e-rickshaws over the last few years across the state.
Samajwadi Party general secretary (Noida) Ramendra Dubey said, “We are also canvassing, but we are not using anyone’s vehicles without their consent.”