Poonam Mahajan, the BJP’s candidate for Mumbai North Central, speaks about the election battle for what is considered a ‘safe’ seat for the Congress party and the issues that cut across socio-economic groups in the constituency.
Priya Dutt is the sitting MP and North-Central has been identified as one of the safest seats for the Congress. What do you think will happen in the elections?
Everybody will fight to win. I don’t know what is safe. I mostly bank on what my people have got and what they have not got. I am giving my 100 per cent to help them get what they deserve.
Your constituency has a wide range of issues and socio-economic groups ranging from the richest to the poorest. What are the common issues you have identified in your constituency which you plan to address that cuts across these boundaries?
Most importantly, Mumbai is the country’s financial capital and we think of it as an international city. But when we actually look at it, is it really an international city? In the past 10 years especially, development of infrastructure, roads, housing, everything, has been lacking. The city generates the highest revenue for the country and is not getting back its due. My agenda is to work on more investments for Mumbai to ultimately achieve better living standards. I believe this city needs an involvement from the federal structure. We need amendments in a few Bills.
Primarily we should upgrade the infrastructure, including the local Mumbai trains and stations which are the city’s lifeline. In the next rail budget, Mumbai should get the maximum allocation with sufficient funds for the suburban boards. Secondly, we need to get on with rehabilitation. Apart from a few MHADA colonies, we are seriously lacking. We need to rehabilitate slums, it’s not that we can’t do it. It is just lack of will.
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You are a resident of South Mumbai and it is believed that you initially wanted to contest from here. However, you are now contesting from North-Central, so what are you doing to grasp the issues in the constituency?
Let it be known that I never wanted to contest from South Mumbai and I am a Mumbaikar who has spent half of her life in this constituency. If a person in Kandivali can work in a Nariman Point office, I really don’t understand why I cannot contest from North-Central.
You are the richest candidate from Mumbai.
Whatever is with me, I have shown in my affidavit. I am being honest.
Why should North-Central vote for you when they haven’t seen you achieve anything concrete for them?
I agree. People have not seen my work as a representative but they have seen the BJP work as a team. I am a part of this team. I am not saying vote for me — I am saying vote for a person who has a vision for the progress of our country. I have worked with the party for eight years. I have worked for the first-time voters committee and helped one crore youngsters become registered voters.
A sizeable portion of the population in the North-Central constituency is part of various minority communities (Dalits, Christians and Muslims). How do you approach them and in this situation, who forms your votebank?
It is sad that we still think about minorities and votebanks and continue to question and answer each other on these old thought processes. I am banking on the people of my constituency. I am not looking particularly at a D’Souza, Khan or Joshi, this does not matter to me. What matters is that people in my constituency are part of this great city.
Does your father’s legacy put pressure on you to perform well?
It does. My father was a perfectionist, he could handle 10 different departments and the party, all the while working for the people. People tell me about his achievements. If there is a comparison made between me and him, which I think is not correct, all I have to say is I am trying my best and the pressure gives me a boost to do better.
Are you hoping the ‘Narendra Modi factor’ will contribute to your chances at the polls?
The Modi factor will help all the candidates, it’s going to help the country. The wave will bring the change that people need and want.
Women’s security has assumed a lot of importance in Mumbai over the past year or so. Your plans in this regard?
First, we need to create awareness about the issue at home. Prevention is better than cure so we need to work on the mentality of men and the mentality of society. As a cure, like in Gujarat I have proposed setting up special Mahila Police Chowkies where a woman can feel safe approaching as she knows she will be treated sensitively.