Ajoy Edwards –Observations by an intrigued neighbour
Ajay Edwards

If democracy is a clothing store, our votes are cash, political leaders are clothes, and the political parties they represent are brands.

Voters are consumers. And like how we carefully investigate the texture, build, finish and other specifications of fabric before purchasing it, an aware voter too needs to carefully examine every political product before investing their precious votes onto them, because an unaware society could end up buying sweaters in summers.

A lot of time, unheard new brands, outshines heavily marketed ones.

I recently discovered the existence of a rare breed, certain aspects of which if researched and replicated, could create extraordinary leaders, instead of ordinary politicians. The name is Ajoy Edwards, and Hamro Party is his brand.

Before any assumptions, I am from Sikkim, and this story is from our neighbouring GTA or Gorkhaland Territorial Administration, a semi-autonomous council that includes the districts of Darjeeling and Kalimpong in West Bengal, the area from where Edwards is contesting in the upcoming elections. Though I am not a voter, one can call me an observer with a refined taste for democratic leadership.

An astounding feat for a 96 days old, the infantile Hamro Party, under the leadership of Edwards, emerged victorious in the 2022 Darjeeling municipal polls over all of its opponents, particularly decades-old, prominent BJP and TMC-backed political parties, and now in its 6th month, is a leading option for many voters in the upcoming elections. Something as serious as this deserves discussion. 

Products or politicians, any consumer item demands constant innovation. I wish to highlight three unique specifications that I observed in the chairman of the Hamro Party, the qualities I believe, when religiously incorporated by political brands, can not only result in the production of easily sellable politicians, but voters would also receive role models, best suited for crisis management and community development in the 21st-century democracies.

Embrace the diversity

What traditional politicians constantly forget is that citizens are also netizens, and during the age of science, social media and rational opinions, every political brand, even at local levels, needs to learn a few basic social etiquettes that are accepted globally, because most voters, especially youths learn from online contents, and the internet happens to surpass regional boundaries, therefore regional biases.

Regardless of racial abuses, a North-Easterner endures in big metropolitan cities like Delhi or Bangalore. Most citizens and politicians from our region, are very progressive and tolerant towards cultural, racial or religious differences, however, one glance at Ajoy Edwards’ online or offline activities, and one can find him breaking existing political norms, by openly embracing citizens from the LGBT+ community, an association loved and appreciated by citizens, but is still super rare amongst Indian political fraternity – particularly in public spaces.

Development triumphs identity politics:

I recently saw a meme with a frightened sheep’s image that read, “The sheep spend their whole lives fearing the wolf, only to be eaten by the shepherd.” While cultural, social and economic identity can be real, politics mostly, isn’t, especially in the GTA region.

Party hooliganism, Murders, Corruption, Poor infrastructure, Unemployment, Discriminatory wages, and public dissatisfaction at large stand testimony, of systemic exploitation of citizens, clearly visible more at local, than at the larger levels of government.

While securing the state of Gorkhaland remains the ultimate objective for everyone in the region, the voters from Darjeeling embraced the straightforward narrative of Edward’s Hamro Party, whose campaigns for municipality elections were primarily focused on improving healthcare, waste management, education and other progressive initiatives, necessary for the overall development of Darjeeling city and its citizens, as opposed to the general “Gorkhaland ko naara.” Or campaign slogans glazed with emotional narratives for statehood.

Social workers are default leaders

Hamro means “Our,” and Hamro Party is “Our Party” in Nepali. And it was not Edwards or his party officials who came up with that name, but citizens, democratically voted this title out from a few shortlisted names, and election results roared; Darjeeling meant, what it unanimously named.

Edwards is a long-time social worker and serves his society through his family-run Edwards Foundation. He notably led the construction of 140 roads in rural Darjeeling, and during the pandemic, his foundation reached remote places with many oxygen generators, that normally cost lakhs of rupees.

While it’s a common sight for spouses of political candidates to actively participate with their partners during political rallies, social events or formal parties. I bet, anyone can name someone like Namrata Edwards, who devoid of any political position in the party, joined her husband in an indefinite hunger strike a month – AFTER – winning elections.

During Easters this year, the duo was neither at home celebrating with family, nor in the church offering prayers, rather they together, fasted for the welfare of plantation workers, for 3 days straight, in April.

The passion and love for the community-run deep in the Edwards family, a litmus that indicates a natural leader.

Helplessly stand many capable women on the frontlines of our democracy, representing the ‘silent Majority,’ surviving violence, hatred and discrimination emerging out of patriarchy, a societal bias that has crippled human societies for thousands of years by conditioning all genders, to perceive males as the most superior and the competent of all – predominantly in politics.

Like being served a fancy cupcake, without any cake – Edwards and Hamro Party disappoint me today, and contradicts every single word I just expressed above, because, out of 45 total candidates, only 2 of them are women. Why the disparity?

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