From sore muscles to weight loss, there was much that first-time candidates in Ghaziabad district had to contend with during their hectic door-to-door campaigning these elections, especially in view of the curbs put in place by the Election Commission of India (ECI) in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Of the total 52 candidates in the fray in the district, 43 (about 82%) of them are fighting elections for the first time in five assembly segments of Ghaziabad, Sahibabad, Muradnagar, Modinagar and Loni. Together, these five segments have a geographical area of about 1,179 square kilometres. The district goes to the polls on February 10 under the first phase of the seven phased assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh. Voting will be held from 7am Thursday till 6pm. The last hour of voting will be set apart for Covid-infected persons, elections officials have said.
The first-time contestants said they must have walked about 20-25km every day canvassing for votes.
“It (campaigning) was full of highs and lows. At times, I felt depressed and at other times, I felt elated as crowds cheered me up. I lost about eight kilos during campaigning as we covered a distance of about 20km every day. My father’s popularity among people came in handy,” said Sushant Goyal, who is contesting his first assembly election on a Congress ticket from Ghaziabad seat. He is son of late Congress MP Surendra Prakash Goyal.
Like Goyal, Sachin Sharma from the Aam Aadmi Party is also contesting his first election from Loni assembly seat. He is pitted against political heavyweights such as sitting MLA Nand Kishor Gurjar of the Bharatiya Janata Party and four-time MLA Madan Bhaiya of the Rashtriya Lok Dal.
“The door-to-door campaigning took its toll, but I managed to cover about 80% of my constituency, especially the Nagar Palika areas and rural areas. In the process, I lost weight, but I have tried hard to campaign wherever possible. Some villages were left out due to time constraints,” Sharma said.
The ECI, while announcing the poll schedule on January 8, banned rallies/roadshows and public meetings. It only allowed door-to-door campaigns with a limit of 20 persons. On February 6, the ECI allowed public meetings with strict adherence of Covid appropriate behaviour.
The candidates in Ghaziabad district, however, took up a majority of their campaigning amid the restrictions as the campaign ended on February 8 for the first phase of voting. A total of 58 assembly seats from 11 district of western Uttar Pradesh will vote under the first phase of elections on Thursday ( February 10).
Manmohan Jha, a first timer, is contesting on a ticket from the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen led by Asaduddin Owaisi from Sahibabad seat. “During my campaigning, I was touched by the gestures of people who donated me small amounts of money to help me fight the election,” Jha said.
“Sahibabad is a big constituency and I still covered about 70% of it. I could not cover Rajendra Nagar, Shalimar Garden and high-rises of Indirapuram. My muscles were sore at the end of each day and I lost about 6kg during the door-to-door campaign,” he said.
Sudhir Kumar, an independent candidate contesting from Ghaziabad seat, said he campaigned door-to-door with the help of his friends and acquaintances. “I covered 70% of the constituency. As I play volleyball daily, I did not find the campaign too taxing. I got to know about the people’s issues while campaigning,” Kumar said.
The five seats of Ghaziabad also have experienced candidates. Some of them are Amarpal Sharma from Samajwadi Party, Sunil Sharma from BJP, Surendra Kumar ‘Munni’ from RLD, Madan Bhaiya from RLD, Sudesh Sharma from RLD, Atul Garg from BJP and Vijendra Yadav from Congress, among others.
Political observers said door-to-door campaigning helps candidates make a direct connect with voters.
“This form of campaigning was a must due to restrictions put in place by the pandemic. It would surely have been tiring for first-time contestants as they needed to visit voters personally to connect with them. It is the traditional and best form of campaigning in which voters and candidates come face to face,” said Sanjay Mishra, associate professor (political science), MMH Degree College, Ghaziabad.