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The Silent Candidate

April 11, 2019 09:42 IST

Ambrose D'Mello, the Independent candidate from Bengaluru South, has been on maun vrat for 15 years.
He does not own a house, does not wear footwear and sells books to earn a living.
Rediff.com's Archana Masih met the activist who could perhaps be the poorest candidate in this election, but has the biggest heart.
Photographs/Videos: Seema Pant for Rediff.com
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Ambrose D'Mello

Ambrose D'Mello has not spoken for 15 years.

His silence is a protest against the commercialisation of water. He does not own a house, land, property of any kind and has Rs 1,745 as his financial assets -- Rs 500 cash and Rs 1,245 in the bank.

He has never paid income tax because he makes around Rs 200 to Rs 300 selling revolutionary books in Kannada.

His total expense in a day is Rs 50 to Rs 70.

Ambrose D'Mello

Mr D'Mello does not have a family. He communicates by writing with a wet cord on a blank slate. The slate is also his election symbol.

He has contested nine elections and never won. He wanted to contest the 2014 general election against Narendra Damodardas Modi, but his candidature was disqualified.

The Election Commission has still not returned the Rs 25,000 he paid as deposit.

Ambrose D'Mello

On a hot afternoon, opposite the Jain temple in Jayanagar, Bengaluru, Mr D'Mello sets up his modest campaign.

A small red cloth is spread on the pavement and books that he wants to sell are laid out neatly. A cardboard placard bears details about him as a candidate.

Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 demonetised notes are clipped on the placard. He thinks demonetisation is unconstitutional.

He writes on his slate that he has Rs 40,000 worth demonetised currency that street vendors and poor have given him. He gives them new notes in exchange from his meagre earnings, he writes.

Video Production: Hitesh Harisinghani/Rediff.com

He stopped wearing footwear as a protest against the killings of Dalits in Haryana in 2002. He is an activist for the rights of Dalits and oppressed.

He carries a black bag with papers, press clippings, demonetised notes and a laptop. That bag contains all his possessions, he writes.

It also has an old laptop which he bought from a journalist for Rs 4,000 few years ago. He paid him over a few months.

Ambrose D'Mello

Mr D'Mello holds an MA in Kannada studies and only campaigns among street vendors and working class people. He uses water from a watermelon vendor to dip the cord with which he writes on the slate.

In spite of the heat, he looks cool, his face shows no signs of worry, he is well dressed in a kurta, lungi and shawl.

Why does he contest when he knows he will not win?

"My fight is a revolution. It is beyond the election," he writes, picking up his dafli (hand drum) to get people's attention as he walks on the street.

Go win, Mr D'Mello -- may your silence be heard.

Archana Masih / Rediff.com in Bengaluru