From Anil Nair in Mumbai
The reaction of the people on the streets is so often markedly different from the conventional thinking and news analyses. Organiser set out to understand the pulse of the people in Mumbai over what could be a stiff neck-and-neck race for the Mantralaya. Needless to say, the rebellion in various political parties in Maharashtra only reflects the importance of the Assembly elections which are just three weeks away. There are several issues which have been brought up by the people whom we talked to, those which affect their daily life, to issues of philosophy and history. From the choice made by the people we could make out that there are no issues endemic to Mumbai. A street corner panwala in Nagpur or Chandrapur might have the same priorities, though not in the same order.
The infighting in various political parties in the last few days over tickets, and earlier with the seat-sharing, has not changed the priorities for the electorates. Almost everyone listed out the priorites as: inflation, electricity, infrastruc-ture and distortion of history. Interestingly, no one pointed out drinking water as a concern area, mostly because of the adequate rains this year. According to Soumya Mohite, a bank employee working at Fort, Mumbai, the most important issue can only be inflation, but she is also peeved at the way politicians have been muddying the name of Savarkar. ?It is really sad. I personally feel humiliated at the way ministers have tried to bring Savarkar to disrepute.?
The recent grid breakdown in central Maharashtra and the subsequent power shortage which even led to riots in several parts of the state, is fresh in the minds of the people. Sudhakar, an employee at the Bombay Port Trust, agrees with her, but finds the issue of infrastructure even more urgent. He has to traverse long distances everyday, along with trucks laden with export goods. ??The state of our roads in Mumbai and Navi Mumbai is a scandal and it happens every year. When I went to Dubai two years ago, I was surprised to find their roads clean and in good shape even though they have an extreme climate. I always wondered why do roads in Mumbai give away so easily.? Good question.
But the issue raised by Avinash Srivastava, a student at a suburban science college, is most stark and demands an answer. Avinash is an avid Ganpati follower, and he finds the election commissioner'srecent edicts confusing. ??In the last state elections in Goa, the church had openly declared that Christians should not vote for the BJP, they even handed out pamphlets and it was given wide coverage in the media. The church made the same appeal repeatedly before the general elections a few months ago. The election commission never felt anything amiss in that. Now during the state elections they have ruled that Ganpati festival should not be exploited for political purposes.? Evidently, Avinash is also an avid follower of political events, just as he represents the teeming youth population which will vote in this Assembly elections. His parting question is: Didn'tTilak start the trend of politicising the Ganpati festival, are we to condemn it now?
The frequent strikes at the wholesale markets which have resulted in prices rising inexorably has also become a contentious issue for housewives like Mallika Swain, who is new to Mumbai. She points out that strikes were not so common when ?we had a NDA government at the Centre. Now when the Left has come to power probably, the trade unions have got emboldened.? One cannot gainsay her point of view, but only add that people seem to have developed insightful conclusions to the political developments in the country which have been missed by the media.
The state elections are by all means a harbinger of things to come. If BJP-Shiv Sena wins, as predicted by most people Organiser talked to, there will be a remarkable change in the administration thrust. And as is wont, the Congress-led alliance in the state has given sops to several communities which are targeted as vote banks, like free electricity for farmers. the elections will prove if people are swayed by such political gimmick. As most people admit they know the consequences of such populism. Ergo.