Campaign diaries from the wall of Raghunandan TR, former Joint Secretary at Govt of India 

As Renuka and Vinodh Kumar campaigned door to door in a narrow street in Shantinagar, two women sitting on a stone bench, watched them. They withdrew when Renuka approached them. “We are with the Congress”, they said. “We are the booth volunteers for this area.”

“That’s fine”, said Renuka. “We would like to talk to you”. They were surprised with that response. They exchanged glances and then turned to her.

“OK, But after you finish, we would like to talk about your leader as well”.

“Of course, please do”, said Renuka, with a smile.

Renuka began to speak about corruption. “We will vote happily for the Congress and sit at home if your party is not so corrupt. Even our leader has voted for the Congress in the past. But please do note, we will never vote for the BJP.”

The Congress workers started with surprise. They were not expecting that response.

“Tell me, what has the sitting MLA done for the cause of good education in this constituency?” Renuka asked. “Look at the condition of the schools here. Please compare these with the schools that have been set up by the commercial group with which the MLA in involved, in Dubai”.

The Congress booth workers were clearly upset now. “Are you saying that our MLA stole government money to build his schools in Dubai?” They asked.

“Not at all”, replied Renuka. “I am just comparing the interest that he has taken in his schools in Dubai, with his disinterest in government schools in the Constituency”.

“Please come along with me”, said Renuka to the Congress booth workers. “Let’s ask everybody here in this street what their primary concern is. And they will certainly answer its about getting the best education for their children and the best health cover. Has your MLA gone even once to his own chief minister and argued for policies to increase the support to government schools? An MLA’s job is to work on improving policies for the entire State, not only to spend his local area development funds or put tar on roads. That’s the Corporation’s job”

“In the same three years, when in Delhi our AAP government was radically transforming government schools, your MLA’s government has not increased the budget. They have continued the policy of the earlier BJP government, of shutting down government schools”.

“Over the past four years”, Renuka said, “I have begged successive Commissioners for Public Instruction to increase the budget on education. Their response was that they had appointed an expert committee to look into the matter.”

“It is not rocket science. I sent plenty of ideas to the Committee”, said Renuka. “Was it so difficult for your MLA to also send his ideas to the Committee?”

“Everybody in this street has some issue or some worry, that is directly related to governance”, said Renuka. “Has your party every thought about doing things better? You show me one individual in this street who has obtained an income certificate or a caste certificate without paying a bribe.”

The Congress booth workers nodded in agreement. “Government officials ask bribes and we have to pay”, one of them said. “I have personally helped so many people get these certificates, but I understand what you say, they would not have not been able to get these in the normal course”.

“Don’t ever say that such corruption free services can’t be done”, said Renuka. “In Delhi, our government has been able to do it, with the help of government officials, with the minimum of fuss.”

Renuka had the complete attention of the Congress booth workers now.

Finally, it was time to move on. The booth workers shook hands with Renuka. ‘We wish you good luck”, they said. “Wish you luck too”, said Renuka.

As Renuka moved away, she stopped in her tracks. “I’m sorry, you did not say anything about our leader”, she said.

The Congress workers smiled. One of them touched her brow with her hand. ‘We bow our heads to him”, she said.

For once, Renuka and Vinodh were speechless.

This is why, in spite of all one’s frustration, one still believes in democracy. The best political debates are on the street, between ordinary people. If only our political debates in Parliaments and Assemblies were on the real issues that plague this country, and not focused on silly one upmanship!

Original story is available at