The high-decibel campaign to capture Bihar may have ended leaving no definitive answers as to who won, but Ranjit Kumar is not impressed. Leaning back in his chair he declares, “Dum nahi tha.”
No one would have guessed. At the office of his Jyoti Printers on Beer Chand Patel Path, Ranjit sits like a trader taking stock after a temple fair – unsold green lanterns (though not of the DC Comics variety), plastic hats with the BJP’s lotus printed on them and sacks with scarves of BSP blue spilling over are strewn around him.
Ranjit’s is the second shop exclusively selling election campaign material on the road and their location is not a coincidence. Further down Beer Chand Patel, the BJP, JDU, RJD, HAM, NCP and CPI-ML have their offices.
For Ranjit and Babulal Birodhi, who owns Kaimur Jagmohan Press, the problem with this election was twofold. “There were about a thousand candidates lesser than in the 2010 elections. Elections took place in six phases last time and we had more time to prepare,” said Babulal.
This meant that Ranjit, who has to order material and merchandise from across the country, could serve only 40 candidates – 10 of them Independents – about 60 less than five years back. Both businessmen refused to divulge revenues and client names, saying only that the business was profitable enough.
Babulal believes that business is on a downward spiral because of a trend that began last year: “During the Lok Sabha elections, we saw parties controlling everything in a very centralised fashion and began supplying better material. Fights have become aamne-saamne, so there are few Independent candidates who stand a chance.”
Both businessmen say they deal with candidates who need more material than their parties can afford to give. “We saw increased demand after the third phase this time as candidates began to realise they had not planned well enough,” said Ranjit, who supplies election material in 14 states.
Babulal was at Ranjit’s office to take stock of the just-concluded season and they both agreed this did not come close to the excitement of 2002. “Bihar was holding panchayat elections after 25 years. So many symbols! We serve up to 1000 candidates during panchayat elections,” said Ranjit.
For the same reasons, Ranjit is more excited talking about Jharkhand’s panchayat elections, scheduled to begin later this month. In both states, candidates contest on their own symbols.
The last deliveries for this election was made on November 2, but this is not the end of the cycle. “They will come on the day of counting and ahead of the swearing in,” said Babulal. Reflecting the uncertainty down the road, the Jyoti Printers’ office has tall stacks of both saffron and green.
A new, more exciting season begins post-Chhath. “Panchayat elections take place here in March; the Election Commission will announce the list of symbols anytime soon,” said Babulal, who operates only in Bihar. It is a state of permanent campaign for him: “….after the panchayat elections, we begin work on the municipal corporation elections of 2017….”