Independents” or “also run” provide added flavour to our vibrant democracy but somehow they miss out on media and tv news attention they deserve

For 2024 Lok Sabha polls, the Election Commission of India released a list of 190 such symbols for the independents. It includes many means of transportation such as auto-rickshaw, boat with man and sail, ship, truck along with road-roller and crane. Then there are a wide choice of food items including apple, bread, capsicum, biscuits, […]

For 2024 Lok Sabha polls, the Election Commission of India released a list of 190 such symbols for the independents. It includes many means of transportation such as auto-rickshaw, boat with man and sail, ship, truck along with road-roller and crane. Then there are a wide choice of food items including apple, bread, capsicum, biscuits, green chili, lady finger, ice-cream, grapes, jackfruit, peanuts. The list of household items range from chair, car, ceiling fan to scissors and knife.

For 18th Lok Sabha, 25 independents are in fray from Baramati, Maharashtra including a Sharad Pawar namesake in the high profiled constituency where a ‘Pawar versus Pawar’ battle of supremacy is on between sitting MP Supriya Sule, daughter of veteran leader Sharad Pawar, and candidate Sunetra Pawar, wife of Ajit Pawar, deputy chief minister and head of the breakaway NCP.

In 2014, there were 78 independents who had filed nominations against Narendra Modi. One of them was Nagarmal Bajoria, 87 of age then, whose nomination papers were rejected on technical grounds. For most, the Varanasi contest was about Modi verus Arvind Kejriwal or Ajay Rai but as many as 42 candidates were in the fray after withdrawals and rejections!

Nagarmal Bajoria who had migrated from Lahore after partition, was a Bhagalpur based trader and social worker. His nomination papers were rejected on a technical ground but Bajoria was “happy” to have made an attempt. Bajoria had coined a slogan ‘Ek Bihari sab par bhaari’ to take on Modi and Kejriwal. As in the past, donkeys had accompanied him to the returning officer’s office while filing nomination papers. “The donkeys that accompanied him were symbolic of political leaders who “fool people with false promises,” he had told a newspaper then.

Interestingly, winning an election is not the sole objective of these independents. Bajoria had claimed to have contested 278 times from presidential elections to the local civic polls, mostly losing out the race due to incomplete papers. He had even contested from the trouble-torn Jammu and Kashmir and holds a distinction of losing security deposits in all the elections he fought.

In 2019, Bajoria, 92 then, had contested the Lok Sabha election from three seats: Chandni Chowk [Delhi] Rai Bareli and Patna Sahib. He could barely walk and talk and suffer from age-related memory loss, but has bought a Maruti van to campaign in these constituencies.
Hari Lal, Kaka Joginder Singh, Nagarmal Bajoria and Mohan Lal dhartipakar require a volume as “Democracy’s David.” On December 31 2002, Mohan Lal Dhartipakar, who, like Bajoria, had lost all the election fights he had fought in his eventful political career spread over four decades, had lost the last fight. However, his passing away was not registered on the political radar. His opponents were busy welcoming and musing on the New Year (2003) when his end came.

Gwalior -based Dhartipakar had contested municipal, assembly, parliamentary and presidential polls with equal zeal, blowing through his own hard-earned money, without any success, but when the 65-year-old died, he died without any regret.

Dhartipakar, which translates into someone who has his ear to the ground, was seen as a clown in the political arena. But he used to proudly reel out names of five prime ministers he had faced — Indira Gandhi, Charan Singh, Rajiv Gandhi, P.V. Narasimha Rao and Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy and Zail Singh were his rivals in the presidential polls.

Dhartipakar was serious about democracy, democratic values and accountability in public life. Holder of a first-class LLM degree, he saw no place for consensus in a democratic system. “People must. He wanted people to have a choice. Otherwise, believing that there was no point holding elections,” he had said in an interview clarifying that he was not a publicity-crazy person otherwise. He sought to convey the notion that he was driven by an urge to make people aware of the values of democracy. “‘The idea of contesting at all levels of democracy was to make everyone realise that democracy was meant for one and all and we should all feel part of it,”,’ he had said in an interview.

Whenever he contested elections, Dhartipakar would wear a wooden crown, garland himself and go about ringing a bell. “The bell was, symbolic of alerting the masses,” said, according to Jai Shanker, an old associate of Dhartipakar.

Often he would arrive at Vajpayee’s public meetings in Lucknow and Gwalior sporting a dhoti-kurta just as the former Prime Minister’s favourite attire. Apparently, Vajpayee used to acknowledge his presence. He knew him well and both hailed from Gwalior and Dhartipakar’s family was sympathetic to the Hindu Maha Sabha.

When Dhartipakar died, he left a considerable number of properties and shops and much property to his wife and four children. But then Dhartipakar was a frugal man, even when chasing his obsession. While contesting elections, he did not spend a lot of money. He would sell his campaign material, like handbills and pamphlets, for a token amount of 25 paise. The objective was to make everyone participate in the democratic process.

Chowdhury Hari Ram, a farmer from Haryana was The country’s original Dhartipakar” contesting and losing presidential polls with passion. Chowdhury Hari Ram, a farmer from Haryana disliked the idea of associating with any organised political group or movement. His son Krishnamurty Hooda, however served as minister in Bhajan Lal’s cabinet. Hari Lal had contested the presidential polls in 1952, 1957,1962, 1967 and 1969 presidential polls, sometimes even getting zero votes.

Prior to In 1974, any one could contest presidential polls by virtue of an adult voter. But in 1974, Parliament passed an act following the experience of the past five elections to the office of the President that were held in 1952 1957, 1962, 1967 and 1969.

In 1974, the union government, on the recommendations of the Election Commission, got an Act passed by Parliament amending the Presidential and Vice-Presidential Act, 1952.

The main features of the amendment was that any candidate for presidential polls would need 50 MPs or MLAs as proposers and seconders respectively. It also increased the security deposit which was pegged at Rs. 2,500/- in 1974 to Rs 15000. It also required that petitions challenging an election could be presented only before the Supreme Court by any contesting candidate or by a minimum of 20 electors [ MPs or MLAs] joined together as petitioners.