Frustrated with the Shiv Sena-BJP-led civic corporation which has been repeatedly criticised for issues ranging from roads and de-silting scams to the controversial open spaces policy, resident groups are considering alternative options in the upcoming municipal elections. With limited options among other political parties, several citizen-activists said they felt compelled to extend their support to clean and educated candidates to break the current political leadership’s grip at the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).
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Nikhil Desai, a civic activist from Matunga, said year after year, the “same illiterate candidates with criminal records or their wives” contest in the elections, which makes the civic polls frustrating for voters.
“The BJP-Sena have run the civic body for a long time, but same issues like bad roads and poor management of waste persist. Mumbaikars see the worthlessness of the entire process and don’t bother to vote. The city desperately needs enthusiastic and educated candidates who can motivate more people to come out and vote,” he said.
Supporting the stand, Rishi Agarwal, an environmental activist, said his vote won’t go out to the leading parties since the BJP-Sena alliance “needs to be punished” for their poor performance. “The political process has become futile and, in a democracy, the monotony has to be broken since incumbents have to be held accountable for their mistakes. Independent candidates have the potential but lack funding. Mumbai needs more alternatives and it is sad that in the financial capital of the country, there is no financial support for community organisations,” he said.
Agarwal added that the growing rivalry between the BJP and Sena and their blatant refusal in accepting their mistakes was further harming the development of the city.
Daphne Warapen, a Bandra-based activist and secretary of the civic and political cell of St Vincent De Paul Church, said she too was looking for a better alternative to the BJP and Sena. “Apart from lack of footpaths, garbage can still be found dumped on roads, among other civic issues. We helped them come to power but the corporators are not interested in working for the city and it has been a very big disappointment. We will have to show support to other candidates if we want the existing scenario to change,” she said.
Sharing Warapen’s view, activist and AGNI member Shyama Kulkarni said following the numerous scams in the BMC, people in the city were desperately looking for change. “New scams happen every year and our taxes are not utilised properly either. If the BMC can’t use funds properly then they should reduce our taxes,” she said.
Highlighting the poor management of open spaces in the city, Nayana Kathpalia similarly feels the BMC needs a new voice. “In a democracy, it is healthy to look for alternative options. We cannot have the same people entrenched in the institution and it is necessary to break the logjam, which has become an issue in the current electoral system. Ideally, I would vote for an independent candidate though I have reservations about their voice getting drowned in the general body,” she said.
Others like RTI activist Bhaskar Prabhu advocate for the importance of voting and insist that people exercise their right to vote for the best possible candidate. “Considering the performance of the two leading parties, it does not seem people will show support for them for another term. The final choice depends on the candidates the parties put up in the end. But people should make it a point to vote, even if it is for NOTA,” he said.
With the growing show of hostility between the two leading parties, there is still no clarity on whether the Sena and the BJP will contest as allies in the upcoming civic elections. Barring the independent candidates, Samajwadi Party, Congress, INC, MNS, MIM and Swaraj Abhiyaan are the other options.
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