Rahi Gaikwad

Mumbai/Thane: Bhaskar Satardekar, 55, a teacher in a polytechnic institute, has three years of service left before he retires. The price rise has defeated his efforts to pool resources for savings.

“At a time when we earned Rs. 500 we could save at least Rs. 100. Now a salary of Rs. 25,000 just vanishes. Every house has to have two to three earners to cope with this price hike. My monthly provisions would cost me up to Rs. 1,300. Today I pay Rs. 3,000. There is no balance left. Even a house in Virar [far-off suburb in Thane] costs Rs. 10 lakh. What is the use of the Sixth Pay Commission?”

Satardekar is operating on zero-balance, while each one of the leading candidates in his constituency of Vandre East has assets worth crores of rupees. Shilpa Sarpotdar of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) has over Rs. 3 crore. Janardan Chandurkar, her rival from the Congress is the richest with over Rs. 6 crore.

The Mumbai-Thane region accounts for 60 Assembly segments. Up to 60 per cent of candidates in all parties (45 per cent in the MNS) are crorepatis, as per the analysis of an organisation called National Election.

Can they represent the Satardekars?

With relentless construction activity, an unprecedented number of high-rise buildings have shot up in places one thought there was no land left in. Who are they for? The crorepatis, say the rate cards.

Meanwhile, more than half of Mumbai is living in slums. All the parties speak of their rehabilitation.

The scent of redevelopment is in the air, much to the builders’ delight.

Angst and absurdity

Pictures of the serene Bandra-Worli sea link are seductive. A veneer for the city’s crumbling infrastructure. “The gutters are full, there is no water in the taps, no toilets, mosquitoes breed, people fall sick. When we tell the official, he says take the water from the main line. Is that all they are supposed to do? Just sit on chairs?” asks Ashabi Bhanu from a Mahim slum colony.

This year it rained less, but the streets were flooded nevertheless. Lake levels plunged for want of rain, leading to a prolonged period of water shortage. A concerned Mumbai civic chief appealed to the people to bathe just once a day instead of twice.

There is no dearth of the absurd in this election. For example, the Sena-BJP combine has promised tax-free vada pav. The Congress-NCP alliance promises to make lakhpatis. Election repartees include Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray calling his rival Raj Thackeray “a rat,” and the Chief Minister calling the MNS chief “a frog.”

Rajan Raje, MNS candidate from Thane, speaks of unrest among the youth.

“The youth is distressed. The system of contract jobs is a new form of untouchability; the youth is enslaved by it. The 25 per cent between 15 to 30 years of age need jobs. Else, their frustration will lead to an increase in the crime rate. Women on the other hand need security from criminals. We don’t want them to lock themselves up in the houses after 7 p.m.”

There are 750 candidates to choose from in the Mumbai-Thane region. They use the right words: water, rehabilitation, infrastructure, jobs, you name it. Mr. Satardekar estimates, “You may elect anyone. The common man never benefits.”

Who does? The only “people” interested in these elections, the politicians.