Photoblog: The Colours Of Democracy

12/02/2015 8:09 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:24 AM IST
Kavi Bhansali

A journey that began with a wave seems to have come full circle with a Tsunami. I started photographing Indian politics for my photoblog Democracy Is Good (inspired by the Jawaharlal Nehru quote -- "Democracy is good, I say this because all other systems are worse.") with the Indian Lok Sabha elections of 2014. I traveled across eight states (Delhi, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh) for this and kept in touch with the subject by covering some of the Maharashtra elections of 2014 and other political events through the year — ranging from Dussehra at the RSS headquarters in Nagpur to a rally by a coalition of people's groups, simply named 'Humara Adhikaar', at Jantar Mantar in Delhi. Most recently, there has been the Delhi elections, where the same party which won one victory after another in 2014 has just been handed a crushing defeat.

The purpose of this project is to capture not just prominent politicians or events but also the smaller details that are no less extraordinary. Such as a Modi lookalike who prays to him at a make-shift altar, an AAP supporting auto rickshaw driver with a 'Kejriwal muffler' or a poster by the Communist Ghadar Party where you might least expect it -- on a compound wall in Delhi's Kalkaji. I hope to continue this journey over the years, through waves, tsunamis and the beginning and end of cycles that are expected to coincide with political terms. But most importantly what comes in between these terms and cycles: us. And the little nuances which may not be newsworthy but which embody us as much, if not more than, our leaders and movements do. Because democracy is good. But only as good as we make it.


Shashi Tharoor prepares for a video interview at his residence in Thiruvananthapuram. © Kavi Bhansali


NCP leader Supriya Sule at her residence in Pune. © Kavi Bhansali


Milind Deora, Congress Lok Sabha candidate from Mumbai South at his office in Fort, Mumbai. © Kavi Bhansali


Late Gopinath Munde, at his residence in Worli, Mumbai. He was the BJP's Lok Sabha candidate from Beed, Maharashtra. © Kavi Bhansali


Supporters of Jaswant Singh waiting for him to take the dias at a campaign rally. A stalwart of the BJP, he chose to stand as an Independent candidate from his hometown in Barmer, in Rajasthan. © Kavi Bhansali


School children in Mochiyon ki Basti, in Siwana, Rajasthan, play with a Narendra Modi mask they found on the road. The youngest boy in the center admits to not knowing what it is. © Kavi Bhansali


Mahatma Gandhi statue, Income Tax circle, Ahmedabad.

A recent BJP advertisement attempted to invoke Gujarati pride with photographs of Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel with the slogan, "The ideals of Gandhi and Sardar will exist, only if a Gujarati wins". © Kavi Bhansali


At a rally in his Lok Sabha constituency, Amethi, in Uttar Pradesh, Rahul Gandhi moves his mic up front on the request of the audience and asks a local Congress leader not to fuss over it. © Kavi Bhansali


RSS old hands, Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari and Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis mark their attendance. © Kavi Bhansali


RSS sarsangchalak, or supreme leader, Mohan Bhagwat performs Shastra Puja, an ancient ritual worship of weapons practiced by sections of India's kshatryiya or warrior caste, now adopted by the RSS. © Kavi Bhansali


The 'Humara Adhikar' movement is a massive coming together of different people's movements to demand protection of rights and rights-based schemes. I asked random subjects in the crowd, comprising people from all over India, to write down, in their own hands, what they they were protesting. This is Beeso Sardar, from Araria in Bihar, he complains that funds released under 'Below Poverty Line' schemes are siphoned off by the administrative bodies and only a fraction reaches them. © Kavi Bhansali


Abhinandan Pathak, aka. 'Junior Modi' - a man who is convinced his life's mission is to be an understudy of the Indian Prime Minister. When I arrive for our meeting, he looks very busy working, while he keeps me waiting. © Kavi Bhansali


The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has a strong support base among Delhi's auto rickshaw drivers. Here, one wears a muffler -- that has become an identifier for AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal's 'common man' identity -- with Kejriwal's image imprinted on it. © Kavi Bhansali


The far-left Communist Ghadar Party of India tries to make its presence felt in Delhi with 'Beware of America' posters put up to protest Barack Obama's Republic Day visit. © Kavi Bhansali


The Congress 'corner meeting' at CR Park's Market No. 1 has only a smattering of people in the beginning. But there are five children in the front row. © Kavi Bhansali