When my fishmonger, Samuel Babu, changed his WhatsApp DP to the Aam Admi Party (AAP) logo six months ago, I sent him a congratulatory message. I’m always impressed by friends who enter the rough and tumble of electoral politics. When he changed this DP again earlier this month, this time to feature a photo of AAP’s Ghatlodiya candidate, Vijay Patel, I decided to call and ask how it was going. “I’m a part of AAP’s Minority Cell, which is quite active,” he told me. “Many members of the Christian and Muslim community have joined the AAP since the party became active in Gujarat. One of the issues we are working on is more land for burial grounds in the cities.”
I like the term ‘fishmonger’, but Samuel is actually much more than that. Though he’s a Malayalee Christian, he was born in Bhavnagar and did his schooling in St Xavier’s, Mirzapur, before graduating from LG College with a BCom degree. He worked with the Adani Group for 13 years, and quit in 2021 to launch a non-vegetarian home delivery service at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, a business that’s now doing exceedingly well.
Catholics have traditionally been drawn to community work through the church, but Samuel is one of the few who has gone one step ahead and joined mainstream politics. He’s thrown himself into the process, temporarily handing over the reins of business to his partner so that he can focus on campaigning for his candidate. “AAP is a good fit for me,” he says. “I tried joining the Congress to work in their Minority Cell earlier, but came away disappointed. They had no energy, nothing much was being done.”
Vijay Patel himself is just the kind of candidate you might expect from the AAP. With a Masters degree in English from Gujarat University’s School of Languages and a Masters in Education, he began his career giving English tuitions and then went on to start Shreeji Education Services, which offers, among other things, coaching for the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).
Vijay, 41, joined the AAP 18 months ago, and says: “Education is an important platform for the AAP in this election. The party chose me as a candidate mainly because of my background in education.”
Vijay is pitted against BJP’s chief minister Bhupendra Patel and Amee Yajnik, a Rajya Sabha member of the Congress for the Ghatlodiya seat, which makes him a potential giant killer. “I am nervous but I believe in God’s miracles. I am not a big shot celebrity. I will go door-to-door to meet my constituents. That is my strategy for this month,” he says. Vijay’s parents died when he was young and he was raised by an uncle. He is married with two children — a boy and a girl — and this will be his very first election (he has never stood for an elected post even in college). What inspired him this time? “In the classroom, I am a preacher as much as a teacher. In 2017, some of my students told me I should get into politics. I remember coming home and writing this down in my diary. I am very unhappy with the way the BJP handled the Patidar agitation. That was the trigger for me to join AAP,” he says.