Hunched and weak, Parvati barely managed to walk but that didn’t stop the 90-year-old from coming out to vote in the MCD bypolls Sunday — all thanks to “free e-rickshaw” rides arranged by the parties.
Parvati was taken to the polling station in an e-rickshaw that picked her up from her shanty in north Delhi’s Wazirpur village. As the rickshaw carrying Parvati left the polling station, Congress workers standing outside could be heard telling the driver, “Jaldi aaja, aur do logon ko lena hai. (Hurry up, two more people have to be picked up).”
Showing the ink mark on her finger, Parvati said, “I voted for the ‘hand’ (Congress).” Her neighbour, Sunil, said she is not the only one to be taken in an e-rickshaw to the polling booths. “My aunt was also taken to the polling station for free in an e-rickshaw earlier in the day,” he said.
Meanwhile, Parvati’s daughter claimed her mother has not been getting her pension for the past four years and that they are “not expecting much” from the candidates. “We still go and vote so that our names are not struck off from the electoral lists,” she added.
Nikhil Rajput, Congress joint secretary of the area and nephew of Wazirpur Congress candidate Mahesh Khari, said, “We hired five e-rickshaws to ferry people to the polling station. We ferried 2,000 people the entire day.”
Meanwhile, party workers scoping the area in rickshaws with electoral lists in their hands were a common sight near the Sarvodaya School election booth in Wazirpur.
Sameer, an e-rickshaw driver in the area, said, “I was paid Rs 900 for the day. It is good money.” He added that as many as 20 to 25 e-rickshaws helped different parties ferry people in Wazirpur.
Another driver, Guddu, said, “Congress workers in the village told us who to take to the polling station and back once they cast their vote.” He added that the service was mainly for the elderly and that most of the commuters who availed of the service were women. Five drivers confirmed they worked for the Congress Sunday and were paid between Rs 300 and Rs 900.
At the Matiala ward, e-rickshaws hired by parties could be seen ferrying passengers. “They did not charge anything today because of the elections. They’re giving us free service,” said Shalu Bhatia, a voter.
While many e-rickshaw drivers in Matiala denied being hired by parties, some said they were doing it out of “loyalty”. “I am doing this voluntarily for the jhaadu (AAP); no one has forced me,” said Inder Bhushan, a driver.
(Nikhil M Babu is an intern with The Indian Express)