It’s David taking on Goliaths in North Central Mumbai
‘You cannot run from the long arm of the law,’ are the words of a popular western song that seem to reflect the stand taken by lawyer Phiroze Palkhivala (47) – the Aam Aadmi Party candidate and nephew of eminent jurist late Nani Palkhivala – who is taking on two-time Congress MP Priya Dutt and Poonam Mahajan of the BJP, besides others in the North-Central Mumbai Lok Sabha constituency.
Palkhivala, in a scenario resembling a modern-day ‘David’ taking on political ‘Goliaths’ in this battle of the ballots, says he has chosen to quit grumbling about politicians doing nothing and instead left his comfortably-well off legal career to focus on rooting out corruption working for the people with hard work and divine faith as his bedrock anchor.
Palkhivalla said he discovered, through volunteers feedback, about 20 ‘crying’ needs of the voters that needed to be addressed – mainly dealing to land-grabbing which is huge and is a ‘massive menace’ in this vast Mumbai North Central constituency. ‘I found that in one case, a group of families were promised redevelopment in 19 months but instead were made to wait for nine years.’
‘Political parties have become rapidly self-destructive and there is a tremendous anti-incumbency wave where people come up to me and say ‘Hum AAPke hi intezar mein the,’ he said, adding that AAP and Arvind Kejriwal have touched the hearts of people despite the party’s inadequate resources, compared to other political parties with unlimited resources.
Witnessing majority of people’s complaints that they see their MP only once in five years – and that too during the elections, Palkhivalla said today people finally could choose a clean party compared to earlier where it was ‘from frying pan to the fire.’ ‘I know the system is dirty, but I left my comfort zone and took the plunge to clean it in an honest, straightforward manner. Where minority issues are concerned, I believe everybody in this country – irrespective of their race, caste, creed, – must feel at home in this country and that the time has come when we must start relating to people from the heart.’
Speaking about MP funds, he said, ‘Every rupee should be utilised and not go back to the Centre. Secondly, I noticed that work needed to be done with such money had to be done through regular channels – where corruption then took over. I feel mohalla committees should instead handle this.’
Meanwhile, the mood is grim in this constituency which is set to witness a quadrangular contest between the Congress, BJP, AAP and Samajwadi Party. This area has witnessed two-time Congress MP Priya Dutt Roncon winning with comfortable margins, but who is now facing complaints from her voters about non-expenditure of funds, being inaccessible to voters and lack of communication with them. She was recently turned away by irate residents, who formed a human chain in Chandivli and JariMari areas of Andheri in the constituency to express their anger at her for not visiting them or addressing their problems.
Priya Dutt, who is the daughter late Bollywood actor and politician Sunil Dutt and late actress/politician Nargis Dutt, is the secretary of the All India Congress Committee. Despite numerous phone calls, she remained unavailable for comment.
This constituency is also witnessing the candidature of BJP’s Poonam Mahajan Rao, who is the daughter of late BJP leader Pramod Mahajan and was encouraged by her uncle – ex-Maharashtra deputy chief minister Gopinath Munde –to take up her father’s political mantle following his murder in 2006. She is now the national secretary of the party.
Besides the AAP’s Palkhivalla, another new entrant here is Farhan Azmi, restaurateur and son of the Samajwadi Party’s state President Abu Asim Azmi.
This constituency, which comprises Bandra (west and east), Chandivli, Kurla, Vile Parle and Kalina, has over 70 per cent of its population in slums for which the Bill for regularization of slums had been passed. Slums have become a target for redevelopment schemes and unscrupulous developers entering the picture, moan some slum residents who did not wish to be named.
‘Old residents of Bandra have lost their voice due to increasing corruption in literally every area of life today and even people living in the ‘Gaothans’ (heritage villages) are being coerced into handing over their old bungalows for redevelopment, lamented long-time Bandra resident Capt. Denis Lobo while highlighting need for change. ‘The only change I have seen in the last few years is increasing slums and crimes like chain-snatching where people, especially women, feel unsafe. We need a Lok Sabha representative who is visible and will tackle our problems, not just of the high and mighty, rich and politically-connected,’ he said while narrating the case of a woman social activist and traffic warden Anita who was manhandled in Bandra by a politician’s son and saved by the intervention of an NGO and public – while other politicians did nothing.