Mumbai North East, a constituency of 16.29 lakh voters, symbolises the dichotomy of development in the city. While the constituency is known for prime real estate with people benefiting from Mumbai’s key infrastructure projects, it is also home to massive rehabilitation projects for those who have given up their land and homes to make this growth possible.
Being the only NCP candidate from Mumbai, does this put more pressure on you?
This is not a one-man army, this is team work. In fact, I am happy because the whole NCP team in Mumbai is helping me and the Congress candidates. Our Mumbai president, Sachin Ahir, visits Congress leaders and also invests two days in a week on me. I am blessed with a good family. Just because I have workaholic people around me, my workload has eased.
What is the main issue faced by the constituency?
The major problem is dumping grounds. Right from Mulund, Bhandup Kanjurmarg, Vikhroli, Ghatkopar till Govandi, dumping grounds are situated in the backyards of these areas. The dumping ground in Mulund has been shut, but the toxic fumes are affecting the health of the people. It needs to be treated chemically, which has not been done. The health of residents of Shivaji Nagar, Ramabai Colony and the areas nearby has been affected. I have received lots of complaints where children are suffering from lung diseases and tuberculosis. Besides, no medical facilities have been provided by the government… we will take care of that too.
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The BJP has denied ticket to its sitting MP Kirit Somaiya. How challenging do you think Manoj Kotak will be?
People who have come to me for help in the past have always left my office satisfied. From what I have heard, Kirit Somaiya would not entertain his own people. My opponents are famous for entertaining builders rather than their people. But I have always chosen social work, whether in power or not. While others have the agenda of earning money, mine is to work for the people.
In your constituency, 49% of the voters are Marathi speaking. What are you doing to gain their trust?
I am not trying to target any community. They know who will fight for their rights. Last time, (MNS chief) Raj Thackeray thought highly of Narendra Modi and gave a statement in his favour… but Modi had (then) only shown him the better side of Gujarat. In 2009, Shishir Shinde had gained around 2 lakhs votes that went BJP’s way the following election. But now, people’s observation has changed. Now everyone is aware of their false promises.
How are you using social media to reach out to the people?
I am not a social media person and use a basic phone. But now it has become necessary to reach people on social media. So, people from the party are helping me with this.
Are you happy with the seat-sharing arrangement with Congress?
It’s a decision taken by the party’s leader. Besides, it is a team effort, we will contest this together.
What do you want to say to the first-time voters in your constituency?
Don’t fall for false promises, look for the candidate who has more experience and will help you and your area develop. We won’t file Right to Information applications against anyone to extort money. We won’t have any tie-ups with any builder… Our opponents’ intention has always been to earn money, whereas with my family’s support, I have enough money to survive and will only work for the people.