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5-year leap from boycott rage to ballot faith

- Ghatshila social worker Kantha Singh to ask people for ‘one vote, one note’

Mahatma Gandhi had said: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

It is probably an understanding of the truth behind these words that inspired Ghatshila’s Upendra Karmakar, who led a vote-boycott campaign in Dalbhumgarh’s Dampara area during 2009 Lok Sabha polls, to file his nomination papers on Monday as an Independent for the prestigious Jamshedpur seat.

But Karmakar, or Kantha Singh, as he is more popularly known, is not an actor or industrialist suddenly bitten by the political bug.

Fifty-one-year-old Singh, a former motor mechanic who sold his garage to set up an orphanage, is entering the poll fray as he feels development could be achieved only by becoming a part of system.

Singh, who studied till Class VII and now begs and takes help of local NGOs to look after the 65-odd children lodged in his two orphanages at Dampara and Haredungri, explains his U-turn from the 2009 vote-boycott drive to the 2014 nomination papers.

He said his stand five years ago was born out of outrage over administrative apathy.

“2009 mein Dampara ke log neta log ke dhoka se gussa thhe. Us area mein mulbhooth sansadhano ki kami hai aur kuch vikas nahin hua hai. Neta log bada bada baat karte hain aur chunav ke baad bhul jate hain. Lekin is bar logon ne kaha ki chunav main bhag lekar apna maang upar uthana hai. (In 2009, people of Dampara were angry with elected representatives. The area lacks basic amenities and there is no development. Leaders make tall promises but forget after the polls. But, this time we decided to make our voice heard by participating in polls),” said Singh.

Singh may have the will to win, but not the wallet to propel him to victory.

While filing his nomination, Singh listed his assets — three decimal land valued at Rs 2.5 lakh, a bike and cash of Rs 1 lakh. He doesn’t have enough funds to admit wife Kavita, suffering from ovarian cancer, to a good hospital.

Queried about his poll prospects, Singh said he had supporters, but conceded that lack of funds might puncture his campaign. He has also decided to ask voters for financial aid.

Main logon se ek vote ek note mangunga. Mere paas jyada paise nahin hain. Par ummeed hain ki mera samajik kaam logon ko pasand aayega (I will seek one vote and one note from people. I do not have much resources, but am hopeful that people will support me due to my social work),” he said.

Singh’s orphanages shelter and educate children till Class VI. His social work helped him meet then President Pratibha Patil in 2009 at Rashtrapati Bhavan. Patil had given him a cheque of Rs 50,000. Singh also got the CNN-IBN Real Heroes Award in 2010.

Good work wins respect, but whether it wins Singh an MP berth is yet to be seen.

Singh apart, Angad Mahto from Amra Bangali and Sheikh Akhiruddin from Jharkhand Party (Naren) filed their nominations to contest from Jamshedpur seat on Monday.