How India's 'Poorest' Lok Sabha Election Candidate Is Crowdfunding His Campaign

With no cash and little bank balance, Muzaffarnagar’s Mange Ram Kashyap is apparently India's poorest election candidate

With no cash and little bank balance, Muzaffarnagar’s Mange Ram Kashyap is apparently India’s poorest election candidate. He claims he lost his money fighting elections.

“Most people contesting elections here are millionaires. Difficult to say exactly how much money they have. People want someone who can talk about the common man’s problems in the parliament,” said 49-year-old Mange Ram, who has filed his nomination as an independent candidate.

An advocate by profession, Mange Ram says it’s the support of the people that has enabled him to campaign. “I am contesting elections thanks to the support of people. I don’t have any bank balance. Whatever I had, has been lost in fighting elections since 2000,” he said.

“There are people who take food and money for promoting candidates, but with me people walk in support (for free). Promotional material is being given to me by these people. My supporters have printed the campaign material, with one person pledging to donate 1,000 pamphlets,” he added.

Mange Ram forfeited his deposits in over half a dozen elections he had fought so far but he vows to continue. He has a legion of supporters who want to see him become an MP.

“Advocate Mange Raam has been providing free service to the poor. He never asks for money,” said 23-year-old Atul Kumar, who is supporting his candidature. Upendra Udhyayay, a lawyer in the Muzaffarnagar district court was drawn to Mange Ram for his honesty. “I got associated with him due to his honesty. His conduct and behaviour has won us over. All the staff of the court are impressed by him. If he becomes an MP, he will definitely work for the development of Muzaffarnagar,” he said.

Despite all the goodwill and support, Mange Ram laments how lack of funds has curbed his election campaigning.

“Lack of funds is definitely a big issue for me, I feel. If I had the money I’d be able to send the vehicles for campaigning and bring awareness among more people. I have not been able to reach out to people (in a lot of areas) due to lack of funds,” he said.

In a country, where most Lok Sabha MPs are millionaires, people like Mange Ram stand little chance of winning.

“This is the greatest travesty of our electoral system. We don’t have a level-playing field. There are two things: muscle power and money power. Over the years, the muscle power has reduced. Earlier we used to have booth capturing and people getting killed. Now it is money power the amount of money which is being spent by the political parties and the candidates is humongous, said Maj General (Retd) Anil Verma who currently heads Association for Democrafic Reforms.

“A common man, who is a good citizen but from humble means, has very difficult chances of getting elected,” he signed off.