“Lotus or bow-and-arrow, we don’t care, we will vote for the candidate who will bring change and development,” says 78-year-old Tarabai Javalkar, owner of the first house that Shiv Sena’s Mangal Bhanushali visited on Tuesday during his door-to-door campaign. Tarabai, who claims to be an old time Sena activist, told Bhanushali that no political party had helped her or others like her lead a better life in the slums where they had been living for the last 50 years. After hearing her, Bhanushali said he had come to seek her blessings and start the work of developing her area.
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On Tuesday morning, Bhanushali, along with ShivSena vibhag pramukh Ajit Gujar and other local Sena leaders, kicked off his campaign with a meeting at Shakha 125 in Pant Nagar, Ghatkopar East. Later, he took out a campaign rally starting from Savitribai Phule Nagar and passing through Shastri Nagar, Gurunanak Nagar and Naidu Colony, the most congested slum settlement in Ghatkopar East.
Bhanushali navigated the narrow and dirty lanes leading to the chawls. His supporters and local Sena workers followed him, shouting slogans, “Aaple laadke Shiv Sena umedwaar Mangal Bhanushali aaj aaplya ithe aale aahet, tyanchi nishaani aahe Dhanushya Baan, Dhanushya Baan la vote dyaa.(Your favourite Shiv Sena candidate Mangal Bhanushali has come to your area, his symbol is bow and arrow, vote for the symbol).”
On his first day of door-to-door campaign, Bhanushali managed to cover around 30-40 per cent of the slum areas Tuesday. “We have conducted several meetings with the local Sena workers, group leaders, and residents of these areas to understand their individual issues before visiting them. Not that I don’t know this area, but I am contesting for the first time from this ward. I need to meet people personally as I feel BMC elections are all about local issues and local people. When people see me, know me, that itself will make a huge difference,” said Bhanushali.
While many promised to vote for him, quite of few could be seen doubting the chances of this Gujarati candidate. “Only a Marathi Manoos will understand the struggle of a Marathi Manoos. I am not sure he will be able to help us in any way. We have been awaiting redevelopment of this area for the past 25 years, local leaders are of hardly any help to us. Let’s see what new assurances and promises these candidates have to offer to us ,” said Nirmala Lakhppati, a resident of Guru Nanak Nagar.
According to a detailed survey conducted by Bhanushali’s campaign team, 25 per cent of the area in Ward 131 are slums, while the rest is divided between old and new buildings. Of a population of a little over 60,000, of which 50,770 are voters, close to 22,000 belong to Gujarati, Marwari and Jain communities.
A familiar face of BJP in Ghatkopar earlier, Bhanushali defected to the Shiv Sena last month. While Bhanushali is confident that his new party will attract Marathi votes, his popularity and goodwill among Gujaratis is expected to help.
Bhanushali went door to door speaking in Gujarati and Marathi to locals and in Bhojpuri to those from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. On the way, Bhanushali kept telling women to come out and vote for their brother (referring to himself). He kept telling residents that while other parties would come with a “bag full of money”, he had come “a clean heart and enthusiasm to work for you”.
Bhanushali has brought out pamphlets in Marathi as well as Gujarati, with the emphasis of the content on redevelopment of the area and also criticising sitting corporator Rakhi Jadhav of the NCP.
In the houses he visited, he introduced himself as a former corporator from another ward in the area and enthusiastically urged residents to see his work in Ward 124. Bhanushali said he was at the forefront in resolving major civic issues in his previous ward and he would replicate it in this ward.
After campaigning for eight hours, with just a single break in the afternoon, Bhanushali called it a day after a meeting with local party workers at Shakha 124 to discuss the campaign plan for Wednesday.