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    Kolkata traders make hay selling campaign gear

    Kolkata: From caps to vests, saris to hair clips, umbrellas to flashlights -- almost everything has a party symbol on it these days. City traders are laughing all the way to the bank as campaigning heats up in poll-bound West Bengal.

    Traders in Burra Bazaar, one of the biggest wholesale markets in India, are doing brisk business in election gear for use in campaigning. Many have put aside their usual business and are dealing in poll paraphernalia to make a quick buck.

    Paras Gambhir of S.P. Textiles, which otherwise deals in blankets, said: "Summer is usually a lean time for our business. We did good business in 2009 (in the general election); so we decided to do it again this time."

    "On a daily basis we have been selling an average of 2,000 to 3,000 pieces of all material, which include umbrellas, t-shirts, caps, vests, hair clips, badges, and saris," he said.

    Asked which party's items had the greatest demand, Gambhir smilingly pointed towards an umbrella with the twinflowers of the Trinamool Congress printed on it.

    Although flags continue to be the highest grossers, the latest to join the brigade -- umbrellas and saris -- are also drawing significant customers.

    Rajinder Singh of N.R. Traders said: "I sell readymade garments. But after seeing other traders selling these and making good money, I too decided to sell them. For 10 days I have been selling a significant quantity of flags, caps and umbrellas."

    All the things have been reasonably priced. The price also depends on the quantity of the order -- the bigger the order the better the bargain, said a trader.

    The umbrellas priced at Rs.300 are the costliest, while saris christened as the 'Congress sari' bearing the face of party chief Sonia Gandhi and the 'Trinamool sari' containing the twinflowers logo fetch anything between Rs.200 and Rs.250.

    As the parties and their candidates jostle among themselves for a place in the sun, the traders are quietly making hay. West Bengal goes to the polls in six phases during April 18-May 10 to elect 294 assembly members.