In the 2015 Delhi Assembly polls, Sandeep Srivastava (53) contested as an Independent against AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal from the New Delhi Assembly seat, but managed to get only 34 votes. “I felt proud that these 34 people, who were completely unknown to me, had voted for me,” he said.
With less than a week left for the polls, he is ready for a second innings from the same constituency. What has kept his morale high, he said, is American political scientist Francis Fukuyama’s book, The End of History and the Last Man.
“In his book, Fukuyama, drawing from (Friedrich) Nietzsche’s line of thought, talks about the ‘men without chests’. I don’t want to be ‘The Last Man’ who is without compassion and concerned only about his comfort,” declares the educationist as he went on a door-to-door campaign in Central Delhi’s Bharti Nagar, with his daughter and two others in tow. Shorn of electioneering razzmatazz, he is at times mistaken for a surveyor.
Srivastava completed MTech in computer science from IIT-Delhi — “at a time when the subject was not in vogue” — and MBA from INSEAD in France. He has written four books on e-governance and over 400 school books. One of the books is co-authored with Puducherry Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi.
Srivastava is among a total of 28 candidates, including 12 Independents, from the New Delhi Assembly seat — the most in the national capital. The Independents are from various fields: lawyers, an academic, social workers, a PhD scholar and farmers.
On the AAP government’s much-touted education policy, Srivastava said: “Kejriwal has created only teaching spaces without improving learning.”
His vision for Delhi is “to break free from freebies and communal polarisation”. This strikes a chord with many other Independents.
“Freebies have earned Delhi a bad name. We are called muftkhors (freeloaders). In the name of nationalism, the BJP is dividing people. It’s tragic that nobody is talking about jobs,” said Rahul Beniwal (31), another independent candidate. He has chosen ‘pail’ as his election symbol to highlight the issue of water scarcity and pollution.
Another contender eyes recognition. “I have to visit police stations and government offices to help the needy. Often, they cold-shoulder me. If I can get a few thousand votes, police and government officials will know that I can’t be overlooked,” said Rahul Kumar (33), a social worker and insurance agent.
The task is uphill for Independents as the high-profile constituency has always voted for a party since 1993. Unperturbed, they said their participation will strengthen electoral democracy.
Srivastava, on his part, is not concerned about winning or losing. “This time, I expect at least 300 votes. (Canadian author) Malcolm Gladwell writes that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. I say it may take even longer… I am still in the learning phase,” he said.
CM Kejriwal is contesting from the constituency and is the sitting MLA. While the BJP has fielded Sunil Yadav, the Congress candidate is Romesh Sabharwal.
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