Once cancelled, twice not shy: Tea seller files papers

A 37-year-old tea-seller, Shatrudhan Gupta, has once again filed his nomination as an independent candidate from New Delhi constituency. 

His candidature was cancelled in the 2009 Lok Sabha because his election ID card indicated him as a female.

However, this time he is determined to pass the scrutiny of the Election Commission. “I will go to court, if they cancel my nomination,” he said. 

For the last five years, Gupta has been running his tea stall in the premises of Hanuman temple at Connaught Place. 

He prides himself for serving the best tea in the entire neighbourhood. And two boxes that are kept in front of his shop urge customers or passersby to donate Re 1 for him campaign.

“I am sitting in God’s darbar. Funds would never be a constraint,” he said. Gupta came to Delhi 20 years ago as a political campaigner for the Communist Party.

Now, he is an independent crusader. “I was available to my hawker friends whenever they needed help, even at night. I have always fought for their rights. So they all know and support me,” he said. 

We respect his ideals and behaviour, said one of his friends who sell kachori in the temple premises. Gupta is one of the 19 independent candidates in the New Delhi constituency. 

“All candidates from established political parties will turn out to be absconders. People are tired of them. Just look at the AAP,” he said, explaining why he stands a chance in the Lok Sabha polls. “I have stayed and worked with people here,” he added. 

Gupta’s tea stall is barely 200 metres away from the party office in central Delhi.  “Eighty per cent of the AAP people know me. Kumar Vishwas and Sanjay Singh are my friends,” he said, pointing out that he never vied for an Aam Aadmi Party ticket. In February, however, he had given a thought to apply for the party’s candidature. 

The formality of getting 1,000 signatures, email and phone numbers of voters in the constituency proved a deterrent. “I can’t leave my shop,” he said. Gupta has no poll promises. He said, “My shop, my work is my manifesto.” 

A meeting with the president of a hawkers’ association is on his Tuesday’s agenda. He said his campaign strategy is ready. “Last time a candidate wanted me to withdraw my nomination. I withstood the pressure,” he said. “Even if I lose I wouldn’t get disheartened.”

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