IT professional to housemaid turn poll volunteers in Bangalore

By Maitreee Boruah, IANS,

Bangalore : A jeans-clad young IT professional and a housemaid with her hair neatly braided may be poles apart in their lifestyle. But they seem to find common ground during election time in India’s tech hub.

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They are the ‘volunteers’ – helping their candidates to win the poll battle by working either as backroom boys/girls or going around the constituency meeting voters to drum up support for their leader.

With voting in Bangalore for the four Lok Sabha seats less than three weeks away, the volunteers are using the latest technology like blogging, e-mail and SMS and even the traditional door-to-door visits to campaign.

The four constituencies in Bangalore – central, south, north and rural – are among 17 of the state’s 28 constituencies going to the polls in the first phase April 23. Voting in the remaining 11 constituencies will be held April 30.

Harjeet Singh, 23, a software professional, is campaigning for retired army officer and aviation entrepreneur Captain G.R. Gopinath.

“I have been sending e-mails to my friends and acquaintances asking them to vote for Captain Gopinath. In my mails I also explain the kind of revolutionary steps Gopinath introduced, by giving middle class Indians a chance to fly in his low cost airline (Air Deccan),” Singh told IANS.

Asked what motivated him to be a volunteer, Singh said, “Gopinath is my idol and he is a true leader.”

“I have taken up the work on my own. Nobody asked me to send the mails. I want leaders like Gopinath to win, who have a record of bringing positive changes in society,” he added.

Gopinath is contesting from Bangalore South as an Independent. He filed his nomination papers Friday. Bangalore South, home to the educated middle class and techies in thousands, is a stronghold of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) whose general secretary H.N. Ananth Kumar is seeking re-election from there for the fifth time in a row.

Srijaya, a 35-year-old housemaid, says she has haggled with the families she works for for a holiday so that she can devote full time to canvassing votes for her leader, former chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy. The Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) leader is standing from Bangalore Rural. Srijaya is a native of Sathanur village, which is a part of the Bangalore Rural constituency.

Like Harjeet Singh, the housemaid says she has taken up this ‘job’ on her own.

“I am not a JD-S worker, nor am I going to be paid by them. I will spend my time campaigning for Kumaraswamy by meeting people door to door,” said the mother of two young girls.

Another volunteer is 18-year-old Pradip Phadnis, a college-goer in Bangalore. He is canvassing for former IPS officer-turned-politician H.T. Sangliana.

Sangliana is contesting as a Congress candidate from the newly-formed Bangalore Central Lok Sabha constituency. He had won the Bangalore North seat in 2004 on the BJP ticket.

“He was a brave and honest police officer. As a politician too he showed courage by going against his party decision and voted in favour of the UPA government during the trust vote in July last year,” said Phadnis, a first-time voter.

D. Jeevan Kumar, political scientist and director of the Centre for Gandhian Studies, Bangalore University, welcomed the trend.

“It is a healthy sign that voters are becoming aware about leaders’ and parties’ policies. We all support one or the other party and leader. Openly admitting it is not wrong, provided nobody should indulge in the use of any kind of force, threat or enticement by gift and money to make people vote for a particular leader and party,” said Kumar.

According to Janaagraha, a Bangalore-based NGO, around 5,000-6,000 Bangaloreans are volunteering for parties of their choice. Most of them are either IT professionals or college-goers.

(Maitreyee Boruah can be contacted at [email protected])