From ₹84 in 2018 to ₹800 now, retired IAS officer and second-time Independent candidate from Nalgonda Assembly constituency Cholleti Prabhakar’s total election expenditure has seen a near 10-times spike.
“I only purchased two flexis and got 2,000 pamphlets printed. My batchmate and IAS officer T. Radha sponsored the Bolero vehicle for the campaigning and a teacher from Kavali Degree College, Nellore, who learnt about my work contributed ₹10,000 for the election deposit,” he says.
For the 67-year-old from Gollagudi in Nalgonda town, it is a battle against ‘election as a business enterprise’, in which leaders would splurge crores of rupees to contest and win.
It was soon after his retirement in 2016 that Mr. Prabhakar became part of the Democratic Forum, a platform that also reaches out to the young population in degree colleges on voter awareness. About 220 colleges across Telangana and 49 in composite Nalgonda district were covered.
Mr. Prabhakar has done his homework again. Youth is also his target voters in Nalgonda segment, where voters aged between 18 and 35 are about 67,000 and first-time voters are some 9,000.
“Anyone who gets about 80,000 votes from the total 2.47 lakh will be the Nalgonda MLA,” he says.
Social reformers Jyotirao Phule and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar by his side, his electoral pamphlets promise ‘development centres’ in all the 48 wards of Nalgonda town and mandal headquarters of Kanagal and Thipparthy, primary health care centres, private and public employment and bank linkages for youth, among others.
While it was a Tiragali or Chakki, a traditional millstone, his electoral symbol in 2018, Mr. Prabhakar picked a computer now out of two other options, a hand cart and a microphone.
Jokingly, he adds: “The ₹84 expenditure in 2018 was for tea for a group of voters.” Mr. Prabhakar also asserts: “In 2018, 171 people (0.09% of the total electorate) in Nalgonda trusted in my adherence to constitution values and voted for me. But, the success of democracy wholly depends on voters, not leaders.”