ON SUNDAY, when four Shiv Sena candidates from the same panel campaigned in high-rise buildings in Akurdi area, they had a tough time reaching out to the voters. While the candidates complained of fatigue, the voters too sounded irked by the constant stream of candidates at their doorstep, trying to woo them with promises and pleading for their support. Since it was a weekly holiday for most office-goers in Pimpri-Chinchwad, candidates from different political parties had seized the opportunity to catch hold of the voters and mouth their oft-repeated line: please vote for me.
The Sena panel was led by Maruti Bhapkar, activist who has switched loyalty from Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) to the Shiv Sena. Bhapkar had started his political career with Sena two decades ago.
On Sunday, Bhapkar and other candidates looked clearly tired and jaded, as they decided to call on voters in Phase One Cooperative Housing Society, an eight-storey building. While some members of their campaign party decided to rest at the ground floor, Bhapkar and three other candidates went ahead to approach voters — one floor at a time.
While some lent an ear, others even refused to open the door. In one of the houses on the seventh floor of the building, Bhapkar and his team spent nearly 10 minutes knocking at the door, to no response. “Every minute is important. However, sometimes we are left clueless if the residents don’t want to open the gate or they are our,” said Urmila Kalbhor, a Sena candidate.
Bhapkar said climbing eight-10-storey buildings is a task in itself and the mammoth size of the ward or panel has added to our nightmare. “Earlier, in 2012, our Mohannagar ward had only 18,000 voters. Now the voter count has gone up to 46,000. You can imagine the kind of effort required to reach out to these number of voters. It is actually a mini-Assembly election, not a civic election,” he said.
In 2012, there was a two-member panel and, in most panels the voter count was 15-18,000. This year, since four corporators are being elected, the voter count has gone up by at least thrice.
In Kharaldwadi-Nehrunagar panel, a 12-storey building with nearly 49,000 voters, NCP candidate Geeta Mancharkar said, “Sometimes the lifts are lying defunct or the residents put a ban on political activists using it. So, both ways, we are in trouble. It is indeed highly tiresome. I didn’t know who gave the Election Commission the idea to come up with such big-sized panels.”
Mancharkar, a sitting corporator and former chairperson of PCMC’s Women and Child Welfare Department, claimed that her panel is the biggest, in terms of size and voter count. “It starts from Kharalwadi and covers places like Ajmera, Masulkar Colony, Udyam Nagar, Nehrunagar and Vithal Nagar. In Kharalwadi and Gandhinagar, buildings are not too high, but in Udyamnagar and Nehrunagar areas, the size of the building is a big deterrent to reach out to the voters,” she said.
The residents, meanwhile, have their own grouse. “Sometimes it becomes too much. There is a constant knock on the door. And it is bothersome,” said 73-year-old Vasundhara Nikhal.
The elderly woman added that campaign parties are often accompanied by vehicles with blaring loudspeakers. “Even otherwise, the vehicles keep moving in the area, pleading for votes or announcing some rally. Though we stay on the seventh floor, the noise drowns out the TV voice in our house,” she said.
Pointing out that she is a heart patient and had been the intensive care unit (ICU) at least thrice, Nikhal said, “For a heart patient like me, such loud noises are just too difficult to bear. And what about SSC students? There exams are nearing. The exams should have been either preponed or postponed.”
Vidya Patil, a resident of Pimpri, said, “When someone you know is at the doorstep, we can understand. But here, people we have never heard or seen are seen at our doorsteps with folded hands. It is difficult to interact with them, all you can do is nod along… it is actually embarrassing.” He added that just when you close the door for one, another one knocks at your door. “Be it in the morning or evening, candidates are virtually chasing residents,” she added.