Promising water connections, clean drainage or distributing cash and liquor to woo voters is now passe. Ahead of the civic polls which are scheduled on February 21, aspirants and sitting corporators are busy trying to woo residents and voters in the wards from which they hope to contest with promises of free Wi-Fi zones, selfie points, senior citizen gym, cycle tracks, CCTV cameras in the locality and other sops such as free SIM or data cards.
With Internet and smartphones now an integral part of life, many potential contestants are using these tactics to attract voters in their wards, especially youngsters and housewives. Two Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) activists who hope to contest the BMC polls from ward 115 and 197 have started offering free Wi-Fi zones in their respective wards.
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According to Jitendra Ghadigaonkar, general secretary, BJP northeast Mumbai, many poll aspirants have started offering a bouquet of facilities that were unheard of in the past. The facilities include free medical camps and helpdesks for people to make Aadhaar and PAN cards, among other things. “A councillor has to understand his ward and people residing in the locality well. Hence, we carried out surveys to find out what people in the area need. We tried finding out newer and innovative ways to engage with voters. A large number of people from my wards live in slums and do not have Internet facility; hence, I started a free Wi-Fi service to make it accessible to my ward residents,” he said. “My aim is to extend this service to the whole of Bhandup,” he added.
He and his team have also started a training class for women in the locality, which include scooter-riding, beauty parlour and spices-making classes. Another BJP worker, Santosh Pandey, who wants to contest the polls from ward 197, too has launched a Wi-Fi service in his area. A group leader from MNS claims to have created the city’s first selfie point at Dadar’s Shivaji park, aiming to woo youngsters. MNS’s Sandeep Deshpande decorated and coloured dead tress in Shivaj Park and named the place “Selfie Point”.
Others who have lined up to offer similar facilities are Arif Zakaria, councillor from Bandra who has got approval to construct a cycle track on Carter Road. Colaba councillor Makrand Narvekar started a gym for senior citizens in BPT garden last month. “A senior citizen gym was a much-needed utility in this area since we have a large number of senior citizens in this area. It is not just to woo voters but a facility that the people of this area needed,” he said.
Afzal Dawoodani, vice-president of the BJP Maal Vahtuk Sena, has already started organising medical camps and provides round-the-clock medical assistance via his team of volunteers in ward 223 and 224.