Lok Sabha elections 2019: Sanjay Nirupam reaches out to win back lost votes in 2014, says there is ‘less hatred’https://indianexpress.com/elections/lok-sabha-elections-2019-congress-sanjay-nirupam-shiv-sena-bjp-maharashtra-5677332/

Lok Sabha elections 2019: Sanjay Nirupam reaches out to win back lost votes in 2014, says there is ‘less hatred’

In 2014, the voters’ turn out in areas like Juhu, Versova and Lokhandwala was less than 50 per cent. “It is tough to get them to come out to vote. In slums the turnout is greater,” Bhavna Jain, secretary All India Mahila Congress, says.

Lok Sabha elections 2019: Sanjay Nirupam reaches out to win back lost votes in 2014, says there is ‘less hatred’
Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam. (Express Photo by Amit Chakravarty

It is 10 am. Under the harsh summer sun, Congress’s former Mumbai unit chief Sanjay Nirupam walks into the Qureshi compound in Behrambaug to address people lined up in balconies. “Delhi me jo zaalim baithe hai, unko badalne ka samay aa gaya hai. Desh ko bachaye, samvidhan ko bachaye (It is time to change the cruel people occupying the seat in Delhi. Save the nation, save the constitution).”

In Mumbai North West, where he is pitted against Shiv Sena’s sitting MP Gajanan Kirtikar, Nirupam understands the importance of 6.6 lakh Maharashtrian voters and the Modi factor that may support his opponent. In 2014, he lost to Gopal Shetty in Mumbai North. This time, the Congress candidate campaigns for 14-15 hours each day.

Starting 9 am, Nirupam crisscrosses through slums and chawls. On Monday, he canvassed through Behrambaug, Kadam Nagar and Anand Nagar covering 6-7 km till 1 pm on foot.

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“He is the first one to walk to our stores this time,” medical store owner R B Maurya says. “We want a candidate who repairs our roads and drains… At least he came till here.”

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In the North West constituency, there are 60 per cent slums, while the rest are residential areas. There are three lakh Muslims and as many North Indians in the area, besides one lakh South Indians and Gujaratis each, and about 50,000 Christians. Nirupam’s team is focusing on regaining votes which the party had lost to Kirtikar in 2014 polls. Kirtikar had defeated late Gurudas Kamat by a margin of 1.83 lakh votes.

While Kirtikar, 75, is relying on road shows waving at crowds from mini-trucks, Nirupam has been campaigning on foot. “On foot, I am able to have eye contact with voters. It helps,” he says.

“In the last few days since I began campaigning, I am seeing a change in voters. There is less hatred against the Congress than 2014,” Nirupam says, as he walks from one store to another.

In the Qureshi compound, as Muslim women complain of absence of toilets, he promises them one in three months.

At 1 pm, the padhyatra ends near Veera Desai. Nirupam heads for lunch at his home in Versova. “I have no changes in my diet. It is the same sabzi-roti,” he says. By 2 pm, the Congress candidate is out again. Till 4 pm, he holds public gatherings to discuss local issues. Last week, he met first-time voters in a Lokhandwala cafe to discuss safety, drug peddling and job opportunities.

From 4 pm, a road show begins. Nirupam sits cross-legged on a mini van waving at auto-drivers and residents. On Monday, he covered Santacruz and Juhu.

In 2014, the voters’ turn out in areas like Juhu, Versova and Lokhandwala was less than 50 per cent. “It is tough to get them to come out to vote. In slums the turnout is greater,” Bhavna Jain, secretary All India Mahila Congress, says.

Once the roadshow ends at 7 pm, Nirupam heads towards Goregaon West where a sizeable North Indian and Marathi voters live.

The Congress has picked at least 300 polling booths that party lost to Sena in the last polls. “We are visiting these booths to discuss issues personally to win voters back,” Akhilesh Yadav, who has handled the party’s campaigning in Madhya Pradesh, where Congress won the Assembly polls, said. Voters in these 300 booths are surveyed and told about promises Modi made and did not fulfil, he added.

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