Election season usually comes with a slew of promises ranging from bizarre to shocking, and the ongoing one is not disappointing on that front. While one candidate promised to allow child marriages if elected, another’s manifesto involves making the cow ‘India’s national mother’. Amit Kumar Sharma, though, has a manifesto that looks just too good to be true. And it probably is.
A candidate from North East Delhi—the constituency seeing a stiff triangular contest between BJP, Congress and AAP—Sharma’s Sanjhi Virasat Party has a manifesto that has gone viral. These are the freebies it promises if elected: education till the PhD level, metro passes for students, healthcare and ration to the poor, and—the most surprising of them all—a bakra (goat) for every Muslim family on Eid. Additionally, he plans to gift Rs 50,000 to families on the birth of a girl, Rs 2,50,000 on a girl’s wedding, and better still, free gold for millions of women in the constituency!
“I am a thinker. Someone who worries about society and thinks of ways to make it better,” says Sharma to VICE. In 2018, he founded the Sanjhi Virasat Party—a party, he says, meant for every citizen who has cultural roots in the country, regardless of their religion or region. But Sharma feels the largeness of his heart been misunderstood. “The manifesto pamphlets got misprinted. We wanted to say bakri (female goat) to supply good quality milk, not a bakra (male goat) to be slaughtered for meat. Everyone knows Muslims have to themselves fund the animal on Eid-al-Adha (or Bakri Eid), and can’t sacrifice something they got as a gift,” says Sharma, a resident of Shahdara area, mostly populated by immigrant workers from poorer states.
But keeping the misprint aside, Sharma has what he believes to be a plan to deliver on his 16 unrealistic promises, including the free goat (male or female). “If I win, I will pressure the animal husbandry department to give animals to Muslims. Lack of quality milk and meat restricts the growth of the community.” Sharma is also batting for more land for graveyards, a major problem of the minority community in the area. “Our nation doesn’t do anything for the Muslim community in their lifetime. The least we can do is give them a decent burial.”
Sharma, who earns his money by selling firecrackers during Diwali and colours during Holi, says he printed and distributed 12,000 copies of his manifesto after talking to people for suggestions. “My business has been affected after some greedy petitioners got crackers banned to earn some money. Also, thousands of shopkeepers in my area are virtually unemployed after the advent of online shopping.” He claims that his friendship with bureaucrats and government servants means he keeps getting a steady stream of information on corruption in the government—an issue he wants to tackle.
Sharma’s promises might be far from viable but he does come across as a sincere chap who wants to do good for those around him—a tunnel vision focus driving him. On the demand to halve the rates of liquor in his constituency, he says that while the manufacturing cost is just Rs 3.32 per litre, wine is sold at shops for around Rs 300-400 due to high excise. “70 percent of people drink liquor only when they’re sad, and want to lift up their night after a hard day. Robbing these sad people is cruel,” says Sharma. If elected, he would push for regularisation of liquor and linking of the Aadhar card to alcohol sale to reduce the queues of teenagers outside wine shops. “When they buy a bottle, an SMS will reach their home number, which will discourage many young people from starting to drink. Moreover, there will be fewer incidences of people losing their organs after drinking spurious liquor.”
How does he plan to distribute free gold to all women, we ask. Sharma replies that he intends to do this by haggling for funds with the Ministry of Women and Child Affairs. “I have data to expose the fact they don’t spend even 30 percent of their allocated funds. Whatever is spent benefits private contractors more than women. Helping poor women will probably wash off the sins of their government.” Sharma will fight to increase the education budget, something he believes will make education free for every student till their PhD. Similarly, he plans to find funds for free Metro passes, free ration and healthcare insurance for the poor by being, well, tougher on the concerned ministries.
Sharma believes that while his constituency pays a lot of tax, all the development that takes place is in the central New Delhi constituency. “After our representatives win, they only earn money from the elitist Lutyens’ zone and become a dalaal (middlemen) for the rich parties.” He doesn’t plan to “entertain his voters too much,” but promises to raise their issues passionately in the Parliament. In his simple world devoid of dirty politics, Sharma believes he has it all to be a winner after Delhi goes to the polls on May 12, because of a hidden undercurrent and discontentment among people and even many workers from rival parties. “We should remember that no party is big or small. It’s people who make it so, and they can change it if they want to.”
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