Volume 2 Issue 7 - April 01, 2004

Javed Abidi: Candidate for the differently abled

DNIS News Network - In a bid to bring the issues of persons with disabilities into the open, noted disability rights activist Javed Abidi will contest the coming Lok Sabha polls as an independent candidate from New Delhi constituency.

Given the trouble that the Congress is having zeroing in on a candidate for the New Delhi Parliamentary constituency, here is an offer that the party cannot refuse: "Support our candidate, Javed Abidi, in New Delhi and earn the goodwill (read: votes) of 70 million persons with disability across the country."

Though not all the 70 million with disability are enrolled as voters, they, along with their "able-bodied" family members, constitute a sizable section of the electorate with a presence in every constituency. Since the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) had announced its candidate for the constituency by March 15, various organisations representing persons with disability are lobbying hard with the Congress to create space within Parliament for the disabled by not putting up a candidate against the 39-year-old. The Disabled Rights Group (DRG), a cross-disability national movement, is spearheading the endeavour.

At the same time, they have approached other parties for their support. And, since many a person with disability is unable to exercise his/her franchise because polling stations are not disabled-friendly, they have also been knocking at the doors of the Election Commission (EC) of India to make it possible for them to cast their vote 'in secrecy'.

"Irrespective of whether or not I get support from political parties, my candidature is certain. We want to create a space for disabled people within the political system and use it to generate awareness about disability," Abidi told The Hindu as he wheeled himself from one meeting to another soliciting support for the cause.

On the choice of New Delhi constituency; he said, "It represents India... Parliament, President's house, Prime Minister's residence, are all situated in this constituency."

After repeated efforts to get an appointment with the Election Commission proved futile, disabled persons staged a dharna outside the EC premises on March 25 to highlight their grievances. Given the general indifference to such issues, the DRG and its supporters known that they are in for a long haul. But this time round, they are determined not to give up easily since the disabled know only too well that the Indian political class will take notice of them only if they keep raising their voice.

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