The fight between two Gujarati candidates in Ghatkopar East constituency is likely to be a tough one. While sitting BJP MLA Prakash Manchhubhai Mehta (55) is banking on the “Modi wave”, Congress corporator Pravin Velji Chheda (49) has “accessibility” his strong point in the constituency that has 2.77 lakh voters.
Though it has a mix of different communities, the Ghatkopar East constituency has around 68,000 Gujarati voters. The area is also home to slum clusters like Ramabai Ambedkar Nagar, Kamraj Nagar and Shastri Nagar.
While BJP led from Gujarati pockets in Ghatkopar East and Mulund in the Lok Sabha elections, voters say the “Modi wave” may not be the deciding factor in the October 15 state Assembly elections. In fact, the Gujarati community in Ghatkopar itself stands divided now between Mehta, a Gujarati Brahmin, and Chheda, who is a Kutchi Jain.
Mehta claims he is connected with voters and knows everyone in the constituency. “I have represented the Ghatkopar constituency for the last 25 years. People know me. I have already conducted two door-to-door campaigns and another two are due,” says Mehta, who is referred to as “PM” by his party workers.
However, many residents say they prefer Chheda when it comes to accessibility. “Chheda is more accessible. The Congress did not have an office for so long in Ghatkopar, but he got one opened 10 months ago so that people can easily approach him for help,” says Kaushik Parikh (61), a real estate agent living in Ghatkopar.
According to Parikh, the Modi wave may not work for Mehta at the local level. Citing a personal example, he says, “I went to Mehta at least five times to resolve a civic issue, but nothing happened. I went to Chheda once and he got it done. As a citizen, this is all that matters to me.”
Asked about his strongest point as a candidate, Chheda says, “People know my work for the last 30 years and I am sure Ghatkopar wants a change and I am for that change.” Housewife Neeta Shah (60), who voted “for Modi” in the Lok Sabha elections, is now contemplating on voting for Congress because of Chheda.
“Whoever works for the public must get elected, especially at the local level. We cannot approach the PM for our problems, but we must be able to meet the MLA. The candidate may belong to any party, but as long as he is accessible to people, he will get our mandate,” she says.
Rajesh Shah (59), a property consultant who is also a Modi supporter, also says he prefers Chheda at the local level. “Be it on the phone or at his office, Chheda is available. He not only listens but also ensures that our problem is resolved. This gives him the edge over Mehta,” he adds.
However, architect Ankur Shinde (29) says Mehta may still win because of the Modi wave. “The chances of BJP winning on the Modi wave are high even though people may not be happy with the local BJP MLA. However, I feel that since the Modi government has initiated a lot of transparency and is not sparing anyone who is not working for people, it does not matter who one votes for locally,” he says.