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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 October, 2003, 16:01 GMT 17:01 UK
Election hopefuls lobby in Delhi

By Ayanjit Sen
BBC correspondent in Delhi

Rameshwar Vyas has spent his three days in Delhi door-stepping officials at the headquarters of the Congress party.

Rameshwar Vyas
Studying the fine print: Mr Vyas considers his chances

The shopkeeper from Tonk district in the western state of Rajasthan wants the party to nominate him as its candidate for December's elections to the state assembly.

The 65-year-old, who never finished his schooling, has come armed with a bunch of files, detailing his political achievements.

He has also brought his son - the young man will try for the Congress nomination in case his father isn't picked.

"If I get the nod from the party, my son will contest as an independent candidate - but we will try to make sure that at least one of us wins the election," says Mr Vyas.

Convincing party-bosses

Mr Vyas and his son are amongst thousands of prospective candidates for the forthcoming state assembly elections in India.

They have been in Delhi for the past few days, thronging the offices of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, and its main rival, Congress.

Congress hopefuls
Would-be candidates throng the offices of the Congress party

"Most of them have come with a bus loads of supporters whose only work is to raise slogans in favour of them, for which they are paid," said a BJP member.

Fifty-three-year-old Durgalal Meena, who's also from Tonk district, thinks he should be picked as the Congress candidate because he represents the region's dominant caste.

"I am trying to meet the party bosses to convince them to favour me as a candidate," said Mr Meena.

In a Delhi school, more than 50 aspirants gather to be interviewed by BJP chiefs.

They painstakingly fill out forms, explaining their educational background, caste, how they plan to win and how much their campaign will cost.

I lost the last election because of the growing prices of potatoes and onions
KK Mehta

Some of them even compare notes by swapping their completed forms.

The entry of a senior party member prompts them to get up from their chairs and rush to greet him.

After all, he is one of the people who will decide their political fate.

Better luck this time?

BJP hopefuls
BJP hopefuls fill out their forms in a schoolyard

A would-be candidate, Shamsher Singh, said that he was trying to get the nomination because he had promised to develop his constituency.

"I have written in the form that I will try to take steps to improve roads, sanitation and parks in my constituency," said Mr Singh.

KK Mehta, who lost in the last assembly elections, says he hoped he would get the nomination because of the work he had done for the party over the last five years.

"I lost the last election because of the growing prices of potatoes and onions in the city," said Mr Mehta.

Candidates compare notes as they fill in their forms

Rajpal Singh, who also failed to win a nomination in the last elections, said his familiarity with the interview procedure would give him an advantage.

But a senior BJP official, Vijay Jolly, said the candidates would be chosen on the basis of their track records, their contribution to the party's programmes and financial means.

He also said that the party was interviewing nomination hopefuls early because their number was much higher this year.

With the assembly elections in five states fast approaching, some aspiring candidates feel they need an image makeover to impress their political bosses.

"New aspirants are trying to get a designer look while those sitting politicians are content with their old photos," said a Congress party member.

Durgalal Meena and supporters
Durgalal Meena and his backers from Tonk, in Rajasthan

One of the BJP hopefuls said that he had got his portrait snapped in a leading Delhi photo studio before submitting the picture to party bosses.

He said he wanted to be pictured in fashionable modern attire, because too many Indians associated the traditional politician - clad in a long shirt and loincloth - with corruption.

With candidate lists for the forthcoming state assembly elections to be finalised soon, aspirants are reaching for every trick in the book.

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