The Hindu

A profile of a representative candidate in this election

What does the “Aam” candidate in this election look like? The answer, it would appear, is that he looks like Manoj Singh, a mild-mannered social activist from Lucknow.

From the Association for Democratic Reforms compilation of candidate affidavits in this election, The Hindu identified statistically what the typical candidate in this election would look like. For one, it would be a man. With just 631 women contesting this time, men outnumber women 20 to one. Next, he would be from Uttar Pradesh, the State that produces the largest number of candidates in every election. While India is still more rural than urban, big cities usually see the largest number of candidates; Lucknow had the second highest number of candidates in 2009. As for political affiliations, he would most probably be an Independent — over 40 per cent of the candidates in this election are Independents, and no single party comes close.

This candidate is around 45 and has access to higher education; half the candidates in this election are graduates. However, he is engaged in agriculture or a combination of agriculture and social service or business. Interestingly, he has no criminal record; despite the focus on criminality, just 17 per cent of candidates in this election have a criminal record. He is not poor; the average assets of candidates in this election top Rs. 4 crore, but this average is driven up by the super-rich. And finally, as the data analytics firm Gramener first reported, his last name is probably Singh.

A copybook candidate

Enter Manoj Singh, 42, an Independent candidate contesting from Lucknow. He is a farmer by inheritance, but a social activist by choice, inspired by his admiration for Swami Vivekananda. A graduate in Hindi literature, he often writes for local newspapers. He bears no political affiliation but is deeply influenced by former Prime Ministers across the ideological divide — Indira Gandhi and Atal Bihari Vajpayee. He bears no criminal record and a humble slice of bread is his election symbol.

Mr. Singh’s tryst with politics began in 2009 when he contested the by-election to the Uttar Pradesh Assembly from Lucknow West. Three years later, he contested the Assembly election to better his previous performance. While his ambitions have grown — from Assembly election to Lok Sabha — one thing that has remained constant in his campaign over the past five years is his paltry campaign spend.

The election is not a monetary gamble but a mission, he argues. “I want to prove that even the common man can fight elections. I stand for social justice. I have money. But I will use that to help the poor, not on unnecessary display. I don’t do bhed ki chaal rajeenti [wolf in sheepskin politics]. I want to show that politics can be done without punjiwaad [capitalism],” Mr. Singh says.

If Mr. Singh truly is the typical candidate, then he is also overwhelmingly likely to lose his deposit. Despite realising the futility of his fight against BJP president Rajnath Singh and Congress leader Rita Bahugan Joshi, Mr. Singh says every vote in the fight against corruption and communalism is valuable.

(This is a part of a series of analytical stories on electoral data.)

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