Young in electoral politics, these first-timers are brimming with ideas for change and hopeful of an opportunity to meet the aspirations of voters. Pitted against seasoned and experienced rivals, they are counting on the love and support of the people to win the day, writes Somrita Ghosh
They are young, restless and want to change the face of the constituencies they have been asked to represent in the Delhi Assembly elections. Though it’s their maiden brush with electoral politics, they are gunning for a seat in the House as it would enable them to put their ideas into practice and bring their promises to fruition. Speaking to this correspondent, the first-timers share their experience of immersing themselves in the heat and dust of campaign trail and open up on a range of topics on what drew them to politics to why they believe they can make the city better, if given a chance.
The youngest candidate
At a sprightly 25, Rocky Tuseed is the youngest in fray for the Delhi elections. Trusted with a Congress ticket to contest the high-stakes Rajinder Nagar Assembly constituency in west Delhi, Tuseed said, “It all started when I was made my class representative. I once raised the matter of our teacher’s absence from college with the principal. My friends asked me to consider fighting the students’ union polls. Though initially undecided, the bug bit me as I started taking an interest in student politics. I joined (Congress-backed) National Students’ Union of India (NSUI). One thing led to another and I soon found myself contesting the DUSU (Delhi University Students’ Union) polls. As it turned out, I won the polls and was elected president.”
Rocky attained his Masters degree in 2019 and is currently pursuing higher studies in law at Delhi University. Happy to have chosen a political career over a cushy corporate job, Rocky said he believes he has an instinct that helps him connect with the masses. For the canvassing phase, he has set himself a caller tune that goes, ‘We love Rocky’.
“Log kehte hain Rocky toh aapna hain (Wherever I go, people say Rocky is one of us). My win in the DUSU polls got me noticed in the area and helped me remain connected with the people. It is this connect which gives me hope of winning the elections. Being a local, everyone in Rajinder Nagar, especially the youth, knows me. They often come to me, asking for help. It’s been one-and-a-half years since I graduated and I have been working to build a good rapport with the people all this time,” he said.
The Congress greenhorn, who said he has been holding six or seven rallies a day, with not much sleep and barely any time to eat, said despite not being born in a political family, he linked his lot with the Congress as he was drawn to its ideology and admires party president Sonia Gandhi.
“I want to serve the people by being in politics. After I was elected the DUSU president, Sonia Gandhi met and congratulated me on my victory. The win was significant as the (BJP-backed) Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) had been winning the polls in the last 5-6 years. My father was taken aback when I told him that I was contesting the DUSU polls. However, over time, my family realised I was serious about politics and encouraged me to stick with it,” Rocky said.
He said he approached his party bosses and sought a ticket to contest Rajinder Nagar. His candidature was confirmed a day before the Congress announced its nominees. Up against AAP spokesperson Raghav Chaddha and senior BJP leader RP Singh, Rocky is confident of posting a win in his maiden electoral plunge.“Raghav is a TV leader. He’s seldom seen on the ground and doesn’t even belong to this constituency. However, he does speak well on television. The AAP government didn’t work for the people here and the proof lies in the fact that they denied a ticket to their sitting MLA,” Rocky said.
Strategist to the forefront
He has been with the Aam Aadmi Party since its inception. Having been a campaign strategist for the party all these years, the Assembly polls will see Durgesh Pathak stepping into the forefront as a candidate. At 31, Durgesh is also the youngest member in the AAP’s Political Affairs Committee, the party’s highest decision-making body. He has been nominated from Karawal Nagar, a seat formerly represented by AAP rebel-turned-BJP leader Kapil Mishra.
“I have been given a new role, which is different from the earlier one. However, even when I organised or planned a public campaign, I had to engage with people indirectly. But the focus was more on fleshing out strategies for elections. When contesting an election, one has to be more responsible as it is about fulfilling the expectations of the people,” Durgesh said.
A literature student with Masters in English from Allahabad University, Durgesh came to Delhi six years ago in the quest of cracking the civil service exam. However, fate had something else in store for him. He joined Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption crusade and became an AAP member when it was founded.
“I neither participated in political activities nor had any inclination to join politics in my college days. I sensed I might not be able to bring much change to the system by being an IAS. I feared I’ll be a part of the system and turn corrupt and inefficient. Our government brought a refreshing change to the learning pattern of 16 lakh children in Delhi’s public schools. We also provided better health and infrastructure to the people. I don’t think it’d be possible for an IAS to accomplish all of these. I have respect for our bureaucracy but I believe we lack political leadership. And, this is where I want to make a change,” Durgesh said.
Having worked in Karawal Nagar over the last one year and more, Durgesh didn’t have to think twice when it came to contesting the seat.Though hailing from Uttar Pradesh, he claimed to have adapted to the culture of Karawal Nagar. “Kapil Mishra didn’t do anything for the people here. None of the government-sponsored projects was implemented sincerely. Over the last one year, I took the responsibility of being the voice of the people,” he said.
He said his party will seek votes on the basis of the work they put in over the last five years. “People hardly talk about Shaheen Bagh here. This election is being fought on local issues and people only care about work. I believe it’s better for parties not to get involved in students’ movements. The mere presence of leaders at student rallies make them look political and the Opposition might say they are being sponsored by the government. When the Aanna Andolan (movement) was on, we didn’t allow any political party to join us. This is a country where democracy rules and students have a right to fight for their causes,” he said.
Swayam Sevak’s poll plunge
Memes of him have gone viral on Twitter and he has often hit headlines for the wrong reasons. However, they couldn’t dull the spirit of BJP’s youth leader Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga. His effort to build people connect finally got noticed when he was announced as the BJP’s candidate for west Delhi’s Hari Nagar. “I am thankful to the party for giving me a chance to contest. I have gone into the election campaign with all the viguor at my command and am confident of getting the better of my rivals,” 34-year-old Bagga, the youngest of all BJP nominees, said.
A ‘Swayam Sevak’ as his Twitter bio reads, Bagga hogged headlines after physically assaulting former AAP leader and senior Supreme Court advocate Prashant Bhushan. As per his affidavit, Bagga has three cases pending arbitration in court and was convicted in one in connection with a protest against Congress leader Kapil Sibal on the issue of internet censorship. Trouble hasn’t stopped stalking him, as he was recently issued a notice by the Election Commission over his campaign music video.
Bagga said he was inspired by the BJP ideology and joined the party at 16. A diploma-holder in National Development Course at the National Defence University Republic of China, Taiwan, he is pursuing a Bachelor Preparatory Programme at IGNOU. “I was drafted into the party’s National Executive team at the age of 21. I was also the youngest member of the BJP’s Youth Legislative Team and the party’s youngest spokesperson at 31,” Bagga said.
He said he has come up with a manifesto of its own to counter AAP’s campaign. “Kejriwal hardly worked over the last five years. All that he did was claim that the Centre didn’t let him work. And now, his party has gone into the elections, chanting ‘…achhe beete 5 saal (five years went well)’. The BJP has put together a separate manifesto for Hari Nagar. We’ve promised to build more smoke towers and make the area pollution-free. We’ll also set up machines to treat garbage and coaching centres for girls,” he said.
Ready for battle
Though lacking in experience and thrust into electoral politics without much riding for them, the first-timers are hoped to help their parties curry favour with young voters. Awake to the burden of expectations on their young shoulders, they have taken to their tasks with confidence. However, it’s to be seen if their best effort would be enough to help them cross the finish line ahead of rivals.
Counting on connect
Rocky attained his Masters degree in 2019 and is currently pursuing higher studies in law at DU
Happy to have chosen a political career, Rocky said he believes he has an instinct that helps him connect with masses
Anna podium to poll maidan
A literature student with Masters in English from Allahabad University, Durgesh came to Delhi six years ago in the quest of cracking the civil service exam. However, fate had something else in store for him. He joined Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption crusade and became an AAP member when it was founded
He said his party has gone into the elections on the basis of its work over the last five years. He said the govt projects were implemented in Karawal Nagar
Three cases, one conviction
A ‘Swayam Sevak’ as his Twitter bio reads, Bagga hogged headlines after physically assaulting former AAP leader and senior Supreme Court advocate Prashant Bhushan
As per his affidavit, Bagga has three cases pending arbitration in court and was convicted in one in connection with a protest against Congress leader Kapil Sibal on the issue of internet censorship. He was recently issued a notice by the Election Commission over his campaign music video.