A food delivery executive is no formidable challenger to a popular film star or a serving member of parliament. Yet, 38-year-old Jenifar Russell hopes to grab at least some of the cynosure in the Bengaluru Central constituency that goes to the polls today (April 18) in the second round of India’s general election.
Contesting as an independent, Russell is among the nearly two dozen candidates in the fray. But it’s mostly a triangular contest between the BJP’s incumbent parliamentarian PC Mohan, the Congress’ Rizwan Arshad, and the veteran south Indian film personality Prakash Raj.
“Working towards the community has been my motivation for a long time,” Russell told Quartz, explaining the raison d’être for quitting his job as a deputy manager with the telecom company Reliance Jio over a year ago. Since then, he has done odd jobs like working as a driver for Uber before finding work at the food delivery aggregator Swiggy.
Over-qualified for these jobs, joining the gig economy nevertheless gave him an opportunity to try and sway votes in his favour, he believes.
Bengaluru Central is home to large IT companies in key business districts such as Bellandur and Whitefield. But it is also plagued by several infrastructural bottlenecks, traffic congestion, and drinking water scarcity. “I wanted to get a hands-on experience of the problems faced by an average voter in Bengaluru. I went and spoke to people in tech parks and campuses to make them aware of my candidature.”
He hopes to use the urban grouse against corruption to win over voters. “I see the common man going through a lot of troubles due to corrupt officials, and I want to try to change that.”
His chances of going to parliament may be slim but he says he has made his point. “I think it is more important for youth to come in the political fold and make a difference.”
While actor Prakash Raj has been involved with developmental work in schools and villages, Russell is leveraging technology to connect with voters. Technology is the primary ground to connect with Bengalureans, Russell feels, which explains his election symbol—a dish antenna, which is also a loose reminder of his professional background.
Unlike Raj, who is a vocal critic of right-wing politics at the national level, Russell’s appeal and focus remain local. But how many votes that will sway in Russell’s favour, in the country’s Silicon Valley, will be answered on the counting day (May 23).
Read Quartz’s coverage of the 2019 Indian general election here.