BJP candidate Manoj Kotak was accosted during a padyatra near Vidyavihar on Wednesday by over 20 protesters who had recently been relocated from the Tansa pipeline area to a heavy industrial area in Mahul.
Kotak, who is contesting the Lok Sabha polls from the North East constituency, was accompanied by sitting MP Kirit Somaiya, senior BJP leader Prakash Mehta and other party workers.
The Bombay High Court had in 2009 directed Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to remove all encroachments within 10 metres of the pipeline. The BMC then razed the houses of 1,200 families in 2016. The state government planned to relocate the displaced families to Mahul. The families were against the decision. When they approached Somaiya with their issues before the 2014 elections, he promised to help them.
“In 2013, when Congress-NCP was in power, Somaiya had come to our area asking for votes. Back then, he promised that if he was voted to power, he would resolve our problems. He had said that he would demand that the government shift us to a better place. We fell for his claims and voted for him in 2014 Lok Sabha elections,” said Rekha Ghadge, a protester.
After he was elected as the MP, when the residents went to meet him, they claimed he backed off from his previous stance, saying “it was a court order”.
“While requesting for votes, these MPs never hesitate to promise, but later when we needed them, they never came forward. Only we know the problems we face on a daily basis. We have been rehabilitated to an industrial area where there is no proper air to breathe or water to drink. People in our area fall sick more often,” said Ghadge.
When the residents learnt that Kotak — like Somaiya in 2013 — was planning to conduct a padyatra in Vidyavihar, they decided to approach him. They claimed when they did so, Kotak asked them to come to his office. They refused, with one protester saying, “If they can come to our area asking for votes, then they should discuss our problem in the area itself.”
“We wanted to show them our problems. By the time the rest of the protesters arrived, Kotak…had left,” said Ghadge. “Congress-NCP alliance is frustrated because its defeat is visible. Hence, they have started a negative campaign and have been been disturbing BJP leaders. A similar incident occurred in Borivli and now they have sent a few people here,” said Balchandra Shirsat, an officebearer in Kotak’s office.