For This Congress Loyalist, Who Sells Promotional Materials for BJP Too, Elections Mean Business
Jhalani, who owns Tripti Enterprises — a shop right across the street from the Pradesh Congress Committee office in Jaipur — has seen the face of politics change over the years. He saw the long rule of the Congress and the emergence of the BJP as a force to reckon with in Rajasthan.
Suresh Jhalani sitting at his shop in Jaipur.
Jaipur: In the ‘Pink City’, elections are the talk of the town. For auto-rickshaw drivers, tea sellers, policemen and old men reading newspapers on the streets, the assembly elections are interesting gossip. However, for 64-year-old Suresh Jhalani, it’s business as usual.
Jhalani owns Tripti Enterprises, a shop right across the street from the Pradesh Congress Committee office in Jaipur, that has been selling election paraphernalia since 1972. His shop stores Congress lapel pins, BJP flags, AAP caps, BSP dupattas and JDU stickers.
"My shop is the oldest on the street. There are other shops too that sell party promotional materials, but they are seasonal. I sell all year-round," said Jhalani. His biggest customers are party workers and being right across the road from the Congress office helps.
Though his shop front is adorned with the Congress hand, Jhalani does not let his political inclination interfere with his business. "I keep materials for all parties. In fact, I have sold a lot of BSP material this time. Articles of JD(U), which doesn't really have presence here, are also in demand,” he said.
All of his promotional materials come from Mathura, Delhi, Ahmedabad and Surat. All parties know that there are these shops in front of the Congress office. So it's not an unusual sight to see BJP, BSP or AAP party workers standing in front of the PCC office during election season.
Jhalani himself though has supported Congress all his life. The first time he voted was in Indira Gandhi's favour. "Mine is a Congress family," he said.
Election season is of course a time of profit for him, but Jhalani sells ‘party material’ all through the year, even when he is back to his regular job as a contractor after polls. Elections might come every five years, but party functions, rallies and jansabhas are regular affairs. Then there are panchayat and municipal elections too. And of course, August 15 and January 26 are good days for business. The national flag never runs out of fashion.
Another thing that always stays relevant is religion. "We sell material for religious functions too. Say if there's a Shyam Baba yatra, or a Shobha Yatra for Hanuman, devotees know they can get flags from us," Jhalani said.
Jhalani has seen the face of politics change over the years. He saw the long rule of the Congress and the emergence of the BJP as a force to reckon with in Rajasthan.
“When Jagannath Pahadia was Chief Minister, instead of staying at hotels, he used to come here to the Congress office and stay in a small room. He was a big leader. Today even a small representative stays in a five-star hotel," he said.
He feels this year's elections are different, more than ever. "The purpose of elections has changed. It is more about your community, your religion and your caste now. It was about parties earlier, now it is about personalities," Jhalani said.
According to him, the Vasundhara Raje government has failed and he is sure the Congress will come back to power. "There are so many issues plaguing us. Drinking water is scarce, electricity is fickle, inflation is on the rise. The state that produced famous farmer leaders has forgotten about farmers," Jhalani said.
He will sell election material till December 5. Once the elections are over, he will go back to his regular job as a Public Works Department contractor. He will lease out JCBs and bulldozers to the government from the same office.
This year, election sales are down compared to last two state polls. Jhalani thinks it's because the Election Commission is stricter now with political campaigning. He also sells everything via bill, so anyone who wants to buy without a bill is not entertained. But not to worry, Jhalani said, "Lok Sabha poll is almost here too. It is the election season."
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