Lal Mani Das raises his voice above the morning din outside a railway station in the eastern Indian city of Patna city to make an appeal: Vote for a strong democracy.The 45-year-old from impoverished Bihar state is not a vote-seeking politician or a government election agent in the world’s biggest election that began on Thursday. Instead he is an ordinary snack-hawker with a bicycle on a mission to exhort people to vote — and with their heads — during the almost six-week polling period lasting until May 19.“I felt a strong urge to do something about how people waste their votes by either electing wrong candidates or not voting at all,” Das told AFP as he cycled along a chaotic road with banners festooning his bike and body. The champion for democracy juggles between his evening job of selling traditional snacks and his “Cycle Jagrukta Yatra” (“Cycle Awareness Journey”) mission. With thousands of candidates competing for the 543 seats in the lower house of parliament from India’s 900 million voters, he is concerned about the calibre of those running.“Voting in India is either personality or party driven. No one ever bothers to vote for a candidate on merit, like how honest he is or if he is a criminal,” said Das. He engages with random members of the public and his customers alike, explaining to them the importance of exercising their democratic right to cast a ballot.Das said he spent 10,000 rupees ($145) out of his own pocket that he had earmarked for his four children’s education to print thousands of flyers with his vision of India. But he rejects taunts from friends and family that he is an eccentric who has squandered his kids’ future, and argues that the money is also an investment in their lives.