Hariprakash Mishra was sitting leisurely in his sprawling shop overflowing with banners, buntings, flags, stickers and cutouts of BJP and Congress leaders on Monday afternoon. A cooler made noise in the background and his three assistants relax on chairs. However, what are missing at shop, Agarwal Bandhu, located at Malviya Nagar – are customers. “Business is very dull.
It is down by 90%,” says Mishra who is in fifties. “If we compare sales of last Lok Sabha elections, it is next to nothing,” he says. At nearby ‘Sheela Ad-Makers’ too, business is dull. As some staffers stack bundles of Congress flags one upon another, buyers are nowhere to be seen. Owner Ajay Agarwal ‘Bablu’ says, “Sales are not even 10 per cent of what was sold during last Lok Sabha election. BJP delayed announcement of its candidate till last moment. There is still no election-like atmosphere”. “But we are well-prepared. Our shop is wellstocked,” he added.
After BJP announcing the candidature of Pragya Singh Thakur from Bhopal, he is taking care that most of publicity material for BJP is in saffron colour. “We have NaMo T-shirts as well,” he said. The publicity material for Congress focuses on Narmada Parikrama of party candidate Digvijaya Singh. Both Mishra and Agarwal blame late announcement of candidate by BJP as the key reason behind sluggish sales. “Sales pick up after last date of withdrawal of nominations.
We are keeping our fingers crossed,” Mishra said. They don’t seem to agree that traditional means of electioneering have fallen out of favour as parties and candidates are increasingly relying on social media for canvassing, “Social media cannot replace flags, banners and posters. After all,when you march in a procession, you have to hold flags in your hands.And when you go for door-to-door campaigning, you have to have something to hand over to voters – even if it is a small badge,” Mishra said. Adnan who manages Jain Enterprises is busy on phone with a client.
After he is through, he says sale is zero compared to what was sold in last polls. “Campaigning is yet to begun,” he rues. “May be, sponsors of the candidates are supplying them with publicity material or may be, their parties are doing that,” he remarked. Adnan is hopeful that candidates will begin campaigning from Monday and the sales would pick up.