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Updated: March 23, 2014 03:06 IST

The common touch, not promises

Sukhada Tatke
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Aam Aadmi Party candidate from South Mumbai Meera Sanyal during her campaign. Photo: Vivek Bendre
The Hindu
Aam Aadmi Party candidate from South Mumbai Meera Sanyal during her campaign. Photo: Vivek Bendre

Donning their signature white caps and wielding brooms, a team of 20 supporters of Meera Sanyal, South Mumbai candidate of the Aam Aadmi Party, are walking in the bylanes of slums near the Kemp’s Corner and Nepean Sea Road. Curious glances follow questioning eyes as slum-dwellers ask what the new candidate has to offer.

Though many in the slums do not know much about the fledgling party, the campaigners urged them to vote for jhadoo (broom), its symbol. Many wondered about the credentials of the party and the candidate, while the team members occasionally bent over to sweep the floor.

“I don’t know this party; neither do I know the candidate. But I am fed up with others anyway,” Narayan Ghat of the Shivaji Nagar slum said.

This is the second time Ms. Sanyal, a former banker, is contesting from the constituency. She managed to bag some 10,000 votes as an Independent candidate during her debut in the 2009 Lok Sabha election. She faces stiff competition from two-time Congress MP Milind Deora.

The constituency is a large mix of highrises and slums adjoining the sea, with Mumbadevi, Byculla and Dongri among its prominent locations. The volunteers with Ms. Sanyal represent an eclectic mix of the constituency, but their biggest calling card is party leader Arvind Kejriwal.

Mona Shah, an eye specialist who contested in the constituency as an Independent candidate last time, is now part of Ms. Sanyal’s team. “We need to find ways to connect with slums. Since we are new, we are asked what we have done in the past. But going door-to-door is an important thing which we do,” she said.

Ms. Sanyal believes that these Safai Yatras will have an impact. “Last time I got votes mainly from middle- and upper middle-class people. But now slums are also recognising us,” she said.

On one of her rounds, Sunita Gole from the Shimla House slum stopped Ms. Sanyal’s team, and asked what they had to offer her if she voted for them. “Are you not tired of promises? I don’t promise anything right now but give me a chance if you are not happy with the way the current system is,” Ms. Sanyal said.

She has not drawn up a specific agenda but will concentrate on broader issues, the candidate adds. This can be a disadvantage, especially after the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party alliance has made promises of free housing and extension of slum cut-off dates.

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