Gauging the waters based on chit chat rather than ‘informed opinion’ is much more fun.
The influence of the press on my thoughts has been at a minimum in the last fortnight. Having been recently transferred to Delhi from Bhopal, I’ve spent my nights under four different roofs this May due to my inability to find a suitable permanent residence.
Although I have access to newspapers and TV in the office, my consumption of news is much lower than before as I’ve been on two spells of casual leave for house hunting and combating Delhi Belly. I haven’t watched a single news talk show since I left Bhopal last month, nor have I been reading the reports and columns of all the Hindi and English papers I subscribed to in Bhopal. Ignorance is bliss.
Now my news comes from real estate brokers, auto drivers and co-passengers on Delhi’s metro and bus lines. On an average, I have met more than one realtor every day for the last fortnight. Almost all of them are either members or voters of the BJP.
They are part of the new saffron wave. Narendra Modi, and not SP Mookerjee or Deendayal Upadhyaya, find place on their walls. Photos of Gandhis gather dust behind their sofa sets. Once they find out I’m a journalist, and to their surprise— not from Delhi, their first question usually is, “Kisko jeeta rahe ho?” (Who are you making the winner).
While most of them are cocksure that their party is winning, all of them find the forecasts hard to stomach. “I got our people to vote in East Delhi. If we get more than 250 (seats in the Lok Sabha) it will be a miracle,” said one Patparganj broker.
When I asked him about the Sanjay Gandhi photo peeping out of a shelf above his table he replied. “The winds are changing. We must also change with the times.”
Most brokers have one main grouse against the Congress, besides the larger national issues of price rise and corruption. It is that of being holier than thou. “They’ve become arrogant. They finger us too much. No one is honest, so why don’t they admit that and let us all work the way we want to,” a Gautam Nagar broker told me.
Another occupational group that is still largely voting for one party are the auto drivers. They curse the Aam Aadmi Party for resigning from government, but admit that their families voted for them. Unlike the estate brokers, these men are not confident that their party stands a chance.
On hearing that I voted in Bhopal, they immediately ask, “Wahaan kya mahaul hai?” (How’s the atmosphere over there). Most of the automen who ferried me in the last few days have pinned their hopes in their party’s prospects in far away seats in Punjab and Kerala.
My friends have been cribbing out the TV coverage. The self-righteous certainty of the anchors, pointless debates, the absence of any new information and the absence of news altogether on TV has dominated the chats I’ve had with drunk fellow journalists at the Press Club or a dingy Defence Colony pub-- popular with English-speaking tipplers with limited resources who are too scared to drink behind liquor shops.
MP Congress spokesman Pankaj Chaturvedi tweeted the EC has second thoughts over counting the votes as the results have been declared and celebrations have begun on TV. Indeed, a friend in a paramilitary force sincerely asked me whether it was necessary for him to be deployed at a counting centre in Rajasthan as the exit polls had already made the outcome obvious.
Despite the certainty of the TV anchors and leaders of major parties, one voter I met on a night bus from Vasant Vihar had been strictly following his party line across borders. The man, a private security guard, claimed he was a Nepalese national and a registered voter in Rolpa.
He was a supporter of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) led by Mohan Baidya. As destiny would have it, his named also appeared in a voter’s list in Palam in Delhi before the assembly polls. Comrade G is now a voter in two countries. I don’t know why he was telling me all this. Maybe it was because I let him make a call from my phone. He had a whiff of cheap whisky on him but he wasn’t drunk. He admitted that he liked the Assamese gamosa I was wearing.
He claimed that in the absence of a Maoist candidate, he had been voting for the CPI in the last two polls Delhi has witnessed. Opinion polls, exit polls, citizenship and boundaries did not matter to him. “I did not ask anyone to write my name on the list. But if I have a vote, it can only go to a communist even if he is not from my party. So what if I am in India? We believe that the whole world belongs to us workers,” he said.