This tea vendor refuses to give up

NEW DELHI, APRIL 24 .At a little over 36, Balram Bari is an unknown political `pro' of the Capital. He has contested and lost four Lok Sabha elections, three State Assembly elections and two Corporation ones so far, but refuses to give up till he is allowed to "serve'' the people with more than just his special strong tea - "kadak chai" as he calls it.

A Class IX pass-out who earns his daily living by running a small tea stall-cum-paan shop in Gandhi Gali off Chandni Chowk's Fatehpuri area, Balram's journey from some 40- odd votes in 1989 to 113 in the last Assembly elections may give little reason for hope, but the tea vendor prefers to be an optimist.

"I will keep contesting till people get tired and vote in my favour,'' quips Balram, who has filed his nomination from the Chandni Chowk constituency. Having overheard and participated in heated discussions of politics at his shop, this tea vendor minces no words when it comes to talks of the big game.

"Why shouldn't I contest? The politicians of today don't do any work for the public. They are corrupt and are only interested in making money for themselves. I am in politics because I want to help people and not for any personal gains,'' he said. He may not be equipped enough to come out with elaborate manifestoes or agendas, but Balram says if elected he would ensure that the problem of unemployment is dealt with. "My agenda would be to ensure employment for the educated. That is the need of the day as we see more and more educated people without work. The second would be give old residents a monthly stipend of Rs. 1,500 so they are taken care of,'' is how Balram puts it.

Interestingly enough, Balram claims that even without winning any election, he has managed to be the `helping hand' of his colony. "I have solved a lot of problems for my area. From getting sewer lines and water piper, people come to me if they have any difficulty. I am their leader anyway,'' he feels. Managing a family of 13 people, Balram earns just enough to ensure good education for his family, but says managing funds for elections has always been made easy by his cooperating neighbours. "Of course, I don't have the Rs.10,000 that one needs to deposit as the security. But till now, I have always collected the money from the people of my locality who have been very encouraging. And hopefully, they will support me this time around too,'' feels Balram.

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