Ujjain: He stands in the sun waiting for the Congress nominee Rajendra Vashishtha from Ujjain South constituency to arrive on the scene. He is 72 and looks weathered. But his spirit is untired. Asked his name, he does not give one. “Naam jaan ke kya karoge, hum bas congress ka kaam karte hain," (what would you do with my name? I am just a Congress worker). But this unnamed Congress worker happily poses for pictures.
At temple town Ujjain’s Begumbagh colony which is largely a Muslim neighbourhood, he stands as one of those millions of unnamed and silent sentinels of the Indian National Congress who have carried India’s premier political party literally on their shoulders. “Ab umr ho gayi toh construction ka kaam karte the wahan se retire ho gaye. Lekin abhi bhi Congress ka kaam karte hain aur karte rahenge," he tells me. He wears a cap with the Congress symbol of hand on it, a stole with the Congress hand running all over it, and also carries the Congress flag. He is hopeful Rajendra Vashishtha will win and so will six other Congress candidates in total seven assembly segments in the Ujjain Lok Sabha constituency. Currently the BJP holds all seven as also the Ujjain Lok Sabha seat.
Behind him, Congress workers and loyalists are busy putting up a temporary stage from where Vashishtha will give a small campaign speech whenever he arrives. He proudly calls himself an “Ujjan niwasi" (Ujjain resident) and says Muslims, who account for 2 lakh in the town’s population of 7 lakh, live in harmony with their Hindu brethren. His fellow Congress loyalist Abdul Khaliq Ansari interjects: “Bamman, maulvi sab saath rehte hain yahan bhaichaare se," (Brahmins, Maulvis live together in peace here).
Asked what binds him to the Congress, he says the simple fact that it has done so much for the country. In Madhya Pradesh where the Congress is sniffing a potential victory against the 15-year-old BJP rule, he says change is very much in the air. “Badlaav toh hona hi hain," (change is certain). He also thinks the Congress victory in Madhya Pradesh will mark a nationwide comeback of the party. This writer seeks his response to the BJP’s campaign theme of reminding voters in Madhya Pradesh of the “disastrous" Congress rule before 2003. “Woh theek hain lekin ab agar Congress ki sarkar aai toh achcha hi karegi. Jaroori nahi ke digvijay (Then Congress chief minister Digvijay Singh) ke waqt jo huwa woh phir ho. Hamare log sikhe hain us waqt se (that’s okay but if Congress forms government this time it will do better. It is not necessary that what happened during Digvijay’s rule would be repeated. Our people have learned from that time."
Not far from Begumbagh colony is Ujjain’s railway station where 58 year old Mahesh Tiwari works as a parking facility contractor. He wears his Congress loyalty with enormous amount of pride and poise. “Hamara vote toh Congress ko hi jaata hain aur hamesha gaya hain. Iss baar rang bhi layega (my vote has always gone to the Congress and this time it will have a positive result too," he says referring to the other Congress candidate from Ujjain city (Ujjain North) Rajendra Bharti. Mahesh Tiwari says he has Congress in his blood. “My father was a mayor of Ujjain in 1976. Congress toh khoon mein hain," He says without a semblane of entitlement. With his modest demeanour and the actual job of issuing parking slips to visitors, Mahesh Tiwari does not look like a Congress dynast. “Hamara bas rishta hain Congress se," (I have a relation to the Congress).