Photography by Arko Datto
In the heart of Burrabazar, Kolkata, one of the largest wholesale markets of India, election time means speedy business for some. Here sit the flag people, amidst heaps of party flags, political umbrellas and other electoral paraphernalia.
Burrabazar is divided into ‘katras’ or markets, each specializing in its own particular item. It is said that you can find anything here, if you’re willing to pay the right price. The flag-sellers sit in the heart of Raja Katra, which originally belonged to the Maharaja of Bardhaman.
Pluralism in the world’s largest democracy is perhaps best found here, where electoral merchandise from all parties finds itself mixed up in gay abandon.
Left-wing Communist Party of India (CPIM) umbrellas find themselves sharing wall display space with Trinamool Congress (TMC) key-chains, while the prime-ministerial candidate from BJP Narendra Modi’s paper masks jostle for attention amidst Rahul Gandhi t-shirts from the Indian National Congress (INC). In Bengal, it is still the TMC flags and banners that have been selling the most.
Most of the traders here hail originally from Marwar, Rajasthan. Their forefathers left Rajasthan in search of better business opportunities in Kolkata, the one-time imperial capital of the British Raj.
After the departure of the British and the Partition of India, the textile industry of Bengal suffered substantially. Most of the merchandise that is sold here is now produced in Ahmedabad, Gujarat.
The customers happen to be party workers coming from far-off places, usually sent by the local offices to buy posters, flags or other propaganda material that might just come in handy before the elections.