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Newspaper vendor jumps into poll fray in Patiala
Voters in Patiala get to hear about the manifesto of a candidate, not from the morning newspaper..

HE IS not a popular face in Punjab elections but since he entered the election arena in Patiala rural assembly segment, Chander Shekhar Verma, a newspaper vendor is attracting eyeballs. Official candidate of  Shiv Sena Hindustan, Verma campaigns door to door on his own bicycle and aims at eliminating the ever-increasing drug menace, prevailing corruption in the system-even judiciary, and discontinue caste-based reservations.

Far away from any pomp and show during the election campaign in Patiala rural, he is  spreading his ideology with the morning news at the people’s doorsteps - that too with his two “gunmen”, provided by the Election Commission to every candidate.

“With their morning newspaper, people receive a list of promises and my vision. At that time, when the mind is fresh, people can consider and think over and decide wisely,” Verma believes. “Rest of the day, I do my door-to-door campaigning, meet people personally, and discuss their issues,” verma says. One of his security guards, Balwinder Singh, said, “He has just a bicycle and thus we have to accompany him wherever he goes - whether on foot or cycle.”

Going by his ideology, one can refer Chander Shekhar Verma as Chander Shekhar ‘Azad’ - India’s prominent freedom fighter. In fact, Verma says ‘Azad’ is his ideal. “I get inspiration from Chander Shekhar Azad, Rajguru and Bhagat Singh. I believe in their principles and try to follow their footsteps,” says Verma, beaming with pride. So, why elections? “I want to save today’s youth from the clutches of drugs, stop the system of donations when the youngsters want to pursue any degree or diploma failing which they opt for wrong ways. I want to weed-out the corruption that has crept into the system. I want that reservation should be based on economic conditions and not on caste. Moreover, I also want to free the judiciary from corruption,” aims Verma.

The 31-year-old said that he is working as newspaper vendor since 1993. And, everyday’s ‘pain’ in the headlines forced him to jump into the poll fray. “I’m enjoying this job. And after distributing newspaper for so many years, I thought why can’t I do something to bring a change…and for that I first had to be a part of it. So, this a first step towards it.”

Pursuing MBA from Sikkim Manipal University, Verma is not just like other youth who was stirred by the anti-graft crusader Anna Hazare. “Anna Hazare raised his voice against corruption, considering his views that elections can be fought with less money, I thought to give it a shot,” says Verma adding that his income from all sources adds upto Rs 1.5 lakhs per annum.

Some of his supporters reminded , Satya Pal Jain, Chandigarh’s former MP and renowned lawyer, had also peddled a long way from being a newspaper hawker to a parliamentarian. Jain first contested Lok Sabha elections as a BJP candidate in 1991, when he was only 39, but lost by a margin of nearly 15,000 votes. Though he won the seat in the next elections in 1996 by defeating Congress candidate Pawan Kumar Bansal, the following elections witnessed his defeat by Bansal. While Jain is now known as a senior BJP leader and a prominent lawyer, his brother is still running the newspaper agency in Kharar town in Mohali district, from where he started his political career. Who knows, Chander Shekhar Verma may also become the next Satpal Jain.

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