The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) made Gandhi caps fashionable again and other political parties followed suit. For Vinay Tendolkar, who sells election merchandise, business was soon booming.
“I got 25,000 Gandhi caps made already. This election so many of these are selling,” said the owner of the store S A Tendolkar.
Poll merchandise lines the streets of Lalbaug-Parel, a predominantly Marathi area in Central Mumbai. Most shops here have started stocking souvenirs of political parties. “Through the year, I have a garment business. In February, I put all the boxes in the loft and switched to election merchandising,” said Mr Tendolkar.
In his shop you might find Rahul Gandhi staring at you from a T-shirt or Narendra Modi looking far into the space from a shawl. There are mufflers and scarves as well as mugs and balloons with party colours, symbols and leaders on them. Products range from Rs 4 to Rs 300. They are usually sourced from manufacturers in Ahmedabad, Surat and Mathura.
Shop owners, however, say they make more money in local elections. “There are always very few candidates from Mumbai. We have a lot of fun during the Assembly and municipal elections. There is a non-stop flow of people in our shops,” said Yogesh Parekh, owner of Parekh Bros.
Mr Parekh, who ran a garment store for 63 years in the same space decided seven years ago to go political. “We thought we could cash in on the kind of money politicians are ready to spend. There is always a need for a political flag or muffler. If there is any inauguration, a birth or death, politicians want to make their presence felt. My shop runs through the year and sales get better during the election,” said Mr Parekh.
The demand is forcing these merchandisers to reinvent themselves. “I make memorabilia for smaller parties and even independent candidates. I recently got an order to print the symbol of a motor car and a motor bike on a muffler. I will get it made in two days,” said Mr Tendolkar.
Mobile phone covers have also invaded the political scene. A shop in one corner of Hill Road in Bandra has iPhone, Nokia and Galaxy phone covers with party symbols. “This is the first time I am selling these. There has not been a great sale yet, but I am told that they will sell closer to the election,” said Salim Haq.