The morning heat was oppressive and the noisy buses that whipped up dust added to the discomfort of the scene. By the side of the one-intersection town of Kabaka (barely 5 km from Puttur), stood Aam Aadmi Party candidate M.R. Vasudeva, clad in the trademark cap and a white shirt with their anti-corruption slogan.
It is 11.15 a.m., 75 minutes past the scheduled time for campaigning. The candidate had been held up in election procedures — signing cheques and filling expenditure forms — while the main campaign vehicle, a jeep fitted with a loudspeaker, had developed a snag on the way there from Mangalore.
However, none of this was a dampener for the 62-year-old former director of Mangalore International Airport. Some of those who accompanied him were from Mangalore; including the tenacious, bare-footed N.G. Ashok (64) whose broom waved about animatedly as he delved on the virtues of the party to passers-by.
For Mr. Vasudeva, the youngsters flitting behind the old-hands were an encouraging sight. “When I first came here, we were only four. Now, it has grown to about 15 volunteers. The base has been set,” he said.
On Thursday, the group traversed through Kabaka, Mura, Puttur, Darbe, Kurnadka and Kumbar – all at the heart of Puttur taluk.
Intermittently, the pitfalls of being a political novice shows: the candidate had to constantly remind volunteers to “show more energy”; the loudspeaker extolled the values of the party in a droning, melancholic tone; and Mr. Vasudeva waved from his moving jeep, and people waved back confusedly. In the heat of the mid-day sun, an air-conditioned hatchback was the preferred mode of travel.
While the numbers in the road show may have encouraged the party, for those peering in, the numbers reaffirmed the fledgling status of the party.
“In the road shows of the major parties, there are so many people sloganeering. The whole town stops to see. The candidates are also so confident; and even we feel they may come to power,” says K. Ibrahim, a shop-owner in Mura.
However, the intentions of the party and its corruption-free campaign seemed to have struck a chord. “They may not get many votes this election, but we hope that in a decade they will do well. They are on everyone’s minds,” said Abdul Muneer, who runs a mobile shop at Kabaka. Similarly, Dulekha, a homemaker, said they were the only party that had approached her one-roomed house that was accessed only by walking on a culvert.
“People don’t want to commit to us, but they definitely don’t want to vote for the Congress or the BJP,” said Mr. Vasudeva.
Even before the party can attempt to deal with the corruption of the government, it has to confront the corruption among the people. Staring quizzically at the AAP pamphlets is 72-year-old C.O. Mani. He can’t read, but guesses the broomstick is the symbol of the party. Is he impressed with the party? “I will vote for them if they give me something…”, he told this correspondent, whom he confused for a party worker.
Roads, water, electricity, farm policy? “Rs. 200 is enough,” he responds.
Mr. Mani was persistent, and a few minutes later, he came up once again and said: “Even Rs. 100 is enough. I am not the one who cheats. I am honest. If I get the money, I will only vote for this party.”