The last time Aktari Khan, a resident of Sanjay Nagar-2 in Govandi, had seen Abu Azmi, the sitting MLA from Mankhurd Shivaji Nagar constituency, it was 2014. It is only during elections, she says, that one gets to see the Samajwadi Party leader. Counting the problems in the area, the 40-year-old says, the number of drug addicts in the area has been on the rise and has made women here unsafe.
“There have been occassions when these drug addicts enter our area. I am so scared that I have stopped stepping out of my house at night. I cannot even keep my daughter alone at home because I fear they can barge into my house and harm her,” she says.
Khan says that while Azmi is aware of these issues, he has barely taken any steps to arrest them.
While the rising crime in Mankhurd Shivaji Nagar constituency and miffed voters seeking answers from the incumbent MLA may land Azmi in a tight spot, the Shiv Sena says it may actually turn the tide in their favour.
In 2014 Assembly polls, the Samajwadi Party leader had won against Shiv Sena’s Suresh Patil by more than 10,000 votes. In the 2009 polls, Azmi had out-muscled Congress’ Syed Ahmed, while Sena’s Shahid Beg had stood fourth after MNS’s Appasaheb Wagare.
The only time that Sena had stood victorious in Mankhurd Shivaji Nagar constituency was in 1995, when party leader Ratnakar Narkar was elected from the seat. This time, Sena workers believe, their candidate Vitthal Lokare, a local, will be victorious.
Lokare has promised to end the menace of drug addicts in the area, which Azmi failed to tackle in the last 10 years. He says lives of more than 25,000 children were ruined. “There are around 100 drug peddlers who come to the area and sell drugs to the youth. It was his (Azmi’s) responsibility to bring an end to it. He could have easily met the Police Commissioner and get hold of these peddlers, but he didn’t,” Lokare says.
He claims that in the last 20 years, people didn’t see a local contesting election from their constituency. “I am a resident of Shivaji Nagar. People know that someone who has grown up with them is contesting the elections. They know that I am aware of the problems they face on a regular basis and will fight for improvement,” he said.
On Wednesday, Lokare started his rally from Mangal Murthi complex in Mankhurd. After visiting the housing society, his rally traipsed through the narrow alleys in the chawls of Shivaji Nagar.
“Ten years ago, Azmi knew that there isn’t any degree or girls college in the locality and a decade after he has been a MLA, there still isn’t any change,” he says. During the course of his two-and-half-hour-long rally, Lokare played with children, shook hands with the elderly and even asked senior citizens about their health. “I will do everything that Azmi didn’t,” he says.
Zameeruddin Shaikh, a resident of the area, said that open defecation has also been a huge problem in their area. “There is only one toilet with 12 seats for over 10,000 people. In the morning, when people have to go to work, there is a long queue here. So, people have no option but to defecate in the open,” he says.
Siraj Ahmed, a health activist adds, “We have statistics that shows that there are only 20 toilets with 16-30 seats for over 70,000 people. I am a resident of Raffique Nagar
and I know the condition in which people live in the area.”
Of the total three lakh voters, 54 per cent (or 1,62,900) of the population are Muslim, while 85,900 voters are Maharashtrian and 33,600 are North Indian.
In a bid to win the trust of the Muslim population from the constituency, the Shiv Sena workers said they have started carrying out rallies at areas dominated by the community. “Workers from the Muslim community have also joined us in large numbers,” a Shiv Sena worker says.
Abu Azmi, meanwhile, says, “I have been raising these issues constantly in the House. Recently, more than 100 toilets were issued by the government, however, construction work got delayed because of the rainy season and a parliamentary election before that… I have also been raising voice on the drug menace in my constituency. I met the Zonal Deputy Commissioner of Police to inquire about the measures he has been taking (to curb the menace). What more can one MLA do?”