Reported by Santosh Jagdev
Bhubaneswar, Apr 4:
They are the people all political parties and candidates fall over each other to woo. They are also the people who seldom fail to vote. But most of the slum dwellers in the capital city of Odisha are blissfully unaware of the parties or their candidates.
When OST did a random reality check on the awareness levels of slum dwellers at the Sitanath Nagar slum in Chandrashekharpur area under the Bhubaneswar North Assembly constituency on Friday, it found to its utter surprise that most of them could not even name the Chief Minister of the state!
No wonder seven out of the 10 people OST talked to said they did not know the names of the candidates in their constituencies while two of them named their local councillors as the candidates. Some of them, however, do know the symbols of the two major parties – BJD and Congress – and to an extent the BJP. That being the case, expecting them to know about the fringe parties and their candidates was perhaps asking for too much.
Two out of the six women that OST talked to, however, did say they would vote for Naveen and ‘sankha’ (conch), but were unable to give the full name of the BJD supremo or the party that the symbol ‘sankha’ belongs to.
“I will vote for ‘sankha’ this time since it has done good work in the city,” said Sukanti Jena. Her endorsement of the ruling party, however, came with a rider. “The local ‘sankha’ leaders have done nothing for our area,” she rued.
Sukanti’s anger against the local leaders of the ruling BJD is shared by most others in the slum. Laxmipriya, an educated woman who works for an NGO, alleges that the local councillors refused to pay any heed to the demand of the slum dwellers for a bore well for 15 years. “Local BJD leaders siphoned off the money sanctioned for a community hall in the area,” she says.
Everyone that OST talked to had the same refrain. They accused the parties and their candidates of promising the moon before the elections and then forgetting all about them once the elections are over.
They listed the major problems they face as the absence of drinking water facilities, bulbs on electric poles, drainage system, sewage clearing system, pucca road and anganwadi centres.
“There are about 300 voters in our area. Most of them vote for political parties rather than the right candidates who can do good work for the locality. Party workers lure them with false promises and earn good sums of money from their superiors in the process,” says Shanakar Maharana.
These slum dwellers may not know much about the parties and their candidates. But going by their views on issues affecting their lives, they certainly seem to understand the working of the political system.