A day after the Aam Aadmi Party’s East Delhi candidate, Atishi, broke into tears at a press conference called to condemn the circulation of a malicious pamphlet that slandered her, most residents of her constituency said that the pamphlet would not influence how they would vote.
“I am a woman and the pamphlet is very upsetting to me,” said Anamika Gupta, a resident of Okhla on Friday. “Nobody will change their mind after reading the pamphlet. Elections are here so everyone will spread rumours. But this should not happen. My husband is telling me to vote for Modi but I will vote for Atishi.”
Gupta said she did not receive the pamphlet personally but heard about it from her neighbours. Several other voters said they had not received the pamphlet but had heard about it on the news or from others.
A number of people spoke out against the pamphlet on social media, calling it a “misogynistic” and “toxic” attempt to defame Atishi ahead of May 12, when there will be polling for all of Delhi’s seven Lok Sabha seats. Several people tweeted support, using the hashtag #IStandWithAtishi.
At the press conference on Thursday, AAP accused Atishi’s rival, BJP candidate Gautam Gambhir, of generating and circulating the pamphlet.
Gambhir denied having any hand in it and alleged that AAP was behind the pamphlet to gain publicity.
Gambhir subsequently sent a defamation notice to Atishi, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, accusing them of attempts to “illegally influence the minds of the voters and tarnish the pristine image” of Gambhir. He challenged them to prove that he was responsible for the pamphlet.
AAP has not responded to Gambhir’s allegations.
‘Won’t influence anything’
A resident of Patparganj said such pamphlets would not change who he would vote for. “I don’t know anything about this pamphlet but it will not change anything because I have already made up my mind,” said Deepak Sehra, who works at a grocery store in East Delhi.
Nirmal Das, a stationery supplier in East Delhi, was also sceptical about its impact. “People don’t pay attention to pamphlets,” he said. “These pamphlets just get thrown away. They cannot go viral the way a video does on WhatsApp. This is not even being circulated on WhatsApp.”
Dilip Malhotra, a shopkeeper in Geeta Colony, had not heard of the pamphlet at all. But he said its contents were unlikely to influence voters. “Today voters are smart,” said Malhotra. “They do not get influenced easily. They can tell the difference between party candidates. Anyway, AAP has barely campaigned here so it does not make a difference.”
While many others in East Delhi said they had not received the pamphlet, some raised questions about its authenticity.
“It could be fake news,” said Mahendra Singh Rawat, an entrepreneur, who had read about the pamphlet in the newspaper. “Who knows, Atishi may have done it herself. All politicians are liars and blame each other. We have already decided whom to vote for and this does not change anything.”
Tanu Mehra, a homemaker in Geeta Colony, struck a different note.
“I am sure the pamphlet will make a difference,” she said. “I have not heard about it much or received it but these things spread and people will definitely talk about it.”