Barmer: Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal may be having dinners to raise funds, but in the back-of-the-beyond seats like this, the party`s candidates have been left to fend for themselves when it comes to raising money for running their campaign.
It is a David versus Goliath fight for AAP candidate Mangi Lal Gaur here as he is contesting against three strong candidates with his enthusiasm only given that funds are difficult to come by in this area where elections are dominated by caste equations.
In the absence of any election paraphernalia like posters and banners, one has to ask for directions to reach the nondescript residence of Gaur. There was no hustle-bustle or hordes of supporters cheering him outside.
A decrepit Mahindra Jeep parked outside the house is testimony to the limited means with which Gaur plans to take on former Union Minister Jaswant Singh, three-time MP Col (retd) Sonaram Chaudhary and sitting Congress MP Harish Chaudhary.
"We do not have funds for fuel. The party has asked me to raise funds by asking for donations and not depend on them.”
"Lifelong, I have not asked for a single penny from anyone, so it is difficult for me now... I am fighting the elections to make a point against corruption," Gaur, a retired additional district judge, told a news agency.
Sitting in the verandah of his two-room rented house, the anti-corruption activist says the constituency has at least 2,000 booths with over 16 lakh voters spread over an area of 71,601 square kilometres which is larger than the size of Sri Lanka.
"To reach all these people, one needs transportation and modes of communication like posters, banners, etc. We are trying to manage on our own but the means are really limited," he said.
The 64-year-old activist says he was associated with the Anna Hazare movement in Jodhpur and later joined AAP when it was founded by Kejriwal. Gaur also started `Jan Chetna Evam Bhrashtachar Unmoolan Manch Rajasthan` from which platform he kept raising the issue of corruption in social schemes run by the government.
"I quit AAP in February 2013 as I was appointed the Lokpal here for MGNREGA. This year, AAP approached me to contest the polls from here after which I quit the Lokpal job," he said.
His wife, who is keenly listening to the conversation, chips in and says, "It is good to raise your voice, but without money how will you take it forward?". Gaur becomes silent.
Prodded further, he says he once thought of withdrawing his candidature, but decided against it as that would have been running away from the problem.
He said that the AAP district coordinator, Ranveer Bhadoo, is also trying to arrange vehicles for campaigning, but that is proving to be an uphill task.
"I had to borrow Rs 25,000 for the election deposit from my neighbour. That has to be returned after elections. There are party volunteers and they are doing their best but the task is huge and we are against money and muscle power of national parties," Gaur said.
When asked about the attention given to high-profile constituencies like Varanasi, Amethi, Chandigarh and Chandni Chowk by the party, Gaur said a request has been made for Kejriwal to pay a visit to Rajasthan, but the AAP leader was yet to get back.
"National parties have all the resources. During polls, elaborate arrangements are made for volunteers by national parties wherein not only food but liquor, opium, etc are also offered to them.”
"We certainly cannot do that, but we are trying to convey the message that there is an alternative," he said.
Gaur said the area suffers from problems like lack of connectivity, water, absence of rural electrification, health facilities, etc. But these issues do not get highlighted during elections, which are contested primarily on the basis of caste equations.
"National parties know this and exploit it to their advantage," he added.
The pleasantries exchanged at the time of parting are interrupted by a call from a stranger. The caller speaking in Urdu introduced himself as an AAP member and congratulated Gaur for deciding to contest.
"Aap contest karo. We will collect funds. Boond boond kar ghada bharta hai," the caller says before ending the call. Gaur`s face lights up as he readies for a long day ahead.