Thursday, Oct 02, 2014

An old fight, with an AAP twist

A child studies outside her home in a tribal hamlet at Aarey Colony, which is yet to get electricity. Vasant Prabhu A child studies outside her home in a tribal hamlet at Aarey Colony, which is yet to get electricity. (Vasant Prabhu)
Written by Sandeep A Ashar | Mumbai | Posted: March 5, 2014 1:46 am | Updated: March 5, 2014 9:10 am

Mumbai North-West, the Lok Sabha constituency stretching from Goregaon to Andheri which was once regarded as the back of beyonds, has been at the centre of city’s transformation in recent times.

While a number of construction projects involving redevelopment of properties have changed its skyline with tall towers, the city’s first Metro rail is set to zip through the skies linking its southern parts — Versova, Oshiwara, DN Nagar and Chakala — to eastern suburbs.

So far as the Lok Sabha polls go, the constituency has remained a Congress bastion so far. But for a three-year period between 1996 and 1999 when Shiv Sena leader (late) Madhukar Sarpotdar represented it, it has consistently elected Congress candidates.

In 2009, now five-time MP Gurudas Kamat defeated Sena’s Gajanan Kirtikar by over 38,000 votes. Previously, late Sunil Dutt got elected five times from the constituency. After his sudden demise in 2005, his daughter Priya won and represented the region till 2009. In the last LS polls, the party nominated Priya from the neighbouring Mumbai North Central following merger of certain portions of the constituency with North Central. Kamat was nominated at the last moment, but he still won.

Kamat and Kirtikar are pitted against each other this time too. Kamat also has a new challenger in Aam Aadmi Party’s Mayank Gandhi.

In 2009, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) candidate Shalini Thackeray had cornered 1.23 lakh votes, playing the spoiler for the Shiv Sena, whereas the Congress had to contend with Samajwadi Party’s Abu Azmi, who polled 84,000 votes. While both these parties are yet to declare their candidates, political analysts and local politicians feel their impact won’t be so much this time.

The constituency has a unique profile with its pockets inhabited by different communities. While north Indian migrants dominate the slums of Dindoshi, Gujarati and Marathi speaking-community hold sway in well-to-do areas in Goregan and Andheri (West). The greens of Aarey Colony are home to over 3,000 tribal families. Versova is a microcosm of diverse cultures — besides the fisherfolk and the Marathi-speaking populace, it has a sizeable presence of Muslims, north Indians and south Indians. In Jogeshwari (East), almost every second voter is Marathi-speaking.

The issues are equally diverse. Sixty-six years after independence, six out of 27 tribal hamlets in Aarey Colony are yet to be provided electricity, water connections and sanitation facilities. There is only one school inside the colony and the internal roads are in terrible shape. “Our community was better served during the British reign,” laments Lakhma Page, the Patil (head) for the 27 hamlets. “We are ignored since we are not a big vote bank,” adds Sanjay Mahale (33) of the Gaondevipada hamlet, which is yet to get power and water supply. continued…

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