Balasore Sadar: The date for the election at the headquarters of Balasore Sadar, Odisha is set to be November 3, 2020. A piece of news about a candidate for the same election is taking rounds around social media. To the surprise, the candidate does not belong to any of the prime political parties contesting for an election, but is an 80-year old barber. Yes, that is a fact!
Benudhar Barik, an 80-year oldie, who is fondly known as Benu Mausa in the neighbourhood is an independent candidate contesting for a seat at the election in Odisha’s Balasore town.
Barik is a resident of Gudipada in Balasore, where he lives in a small one-room hut all by himself. After his wife’s death 30 years back, he began volunteering with various NGOs active in the area to help people in need. He has not had the privilege to attend school, but he claims that he can read and write, which is intriguing. He has no moveable or immoveable assets in his name to-date.
For over 6 decades of his professional life as a barber, Barik has been to villages around Balarsore where he used to set up his shop under trees and engage with his customers, while giving them a haircut. He is a familiar face in the town given the 6 decades-long association. His frequent visits to different villages have given him an insight into the lives of the locals in individual hamlets and settlements and their needs. And he wants to come in power and make an attempt to solve their troubles.
Given the compassion for people, Barik had tried contesting for civic body elections, a decade ago. And he has this time resurfaced with his undying spirit to do good for people. He has borrowed Rs. 10,000 to file his nomination for the said elections.
Unlike the loud and pompous campaigns arranged by the elite political parties, Barik’s style of selling his point is very lucid. He charters through the street of the town on his bicycle with just a poster carrying his picture, name and election symbol fixed on the handle of his cycle – that is it about his campaign. Further, every so often, he manages to hire a tempo, which goes around town announcing: “Kettli chinha ku vote dei, Benu mausa ku diya jitai (Vote for the kettle symbol and help Benu mausa win)”.
When asked Barik said, “I never thought I would contest an election because I never had the funds to do so. But I am aging and my only pursuit in life is to be able to help people in need. If I win the election, I can do better for the people as a people’s representative. Irrespective of whether I become an MLA or not, I would continue to do so.”
Elections in any part of the world are tricky and influential people stand a better chance at it. Such facts and the current situation in Balasore make is amply clear that Barik has a slim chance at the elections. However, one cannot undermine the courage the old man has to run for the election all by himself at his age!