‘Tired of being used as a vote bank’: Residents of Mohammed Ali Road in Mumbai South constituency yearn for change

This election, the constituency will witness a Sena vs Sena contest for the first time, with two-time MP and Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Arvind Sawant taking on Yamini Jadhav of the Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena

Published - May 19, 2024 01:25 am IST - MUMBAI

Residents live in dilapidated, century-old structures on narrow lanes riddled with clogged drains and piles of garbage.

Residents live in dilapidated, century-old structures on narrow lanes riddled with clogged drains and piles of garbage. | Photo Credit: Purnima Sah

Elections come and go, but living conditions remain the same, say the residents of Mohammed Ali Road, a bustling economic and tourist hub in the Mumbai South constituency, one of the six Lok Sabha seats in the city that go to the polls on May 20 in the fifth and final phase of the ongoing general election in Maharashtra.

With residents inhabiting dilapidated, century-old structures situated in narrow lanes riddled with clogged drains and piles of garbage, the primary concerns in the area centre around the redevelopment of buildings, creation of parking space, and clean surroundings. According to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), 73 houses collapsed in the area between January 2022 and March 2024.

On January 24 this year, the BMC pulled down 40 structures on Mohammed Ali Road as part of an anti-encroachment drive. Civic officials said the exercise, which followed similar action in Mira Road in Thane district after communal clashes were reported in the area, was carried out to free up space on footpaths.

The primary concerns in the area are redevelopment of buildings, creation of parking space, and clean surroundings. 

The primary concerns in the area are redevelopment of buildings, creation of parking space, and clean surroundings.  | Photo Credit: Purnima Sah

The Mumbai South constituency comprises six Assembly segments — Worli, Shivadi, Byculla, Malabar Hill, Mumbadevi, and Colaba — and Mohammed Ali Road falls under the Mumbadevi segment. According to the latest data from the Election Commission of India (ECI), out of the 15,11,399 voters in the parliamentary constituency, 2,33,117 reside in Mumbadevi.

This election, the constituency will witness a Sena versus Sena contest for the first time, with two-time MP and Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Arvind Sawant taking on Yamini Jadhav, Byculla MLA and candidate of the Chief Minister Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena.

Shiv Sena (UBT) candidate from Mumbai South constituency Arvind Sawant during a roadshow for the Lok Sabha election in Mumbai on May 7, 2024.

Shiv Sena (UBT) candidate from Mumbai South constituency Arvind Sawant during a roadshow for the Lok Sabha election in Mumbai on May 7, 2024. | Photo Credit: PTI

Poll promises

“We have plans ready to upgrade Mohammed Ali Road, but it must be done in collaboration with the Central and State governments. These are BDD (Bombay Development Department) chawls, which are over a century old and in a state of disrepair. The Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government led by Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray had revived the redevelopment plan in 2020, but then the party split, and the rest is history. Only when Narendra Modi is removed from the Prime Minister’s post can development take place,” Mr. Sawant, who is eyeing a hat-trick of wins, said.

Ms. Jadhav, who was among the 39 MLAs who pledged support to Mr. Shinde when he revolted against Mr. Thackeray in June 2022, was named as the candidate of the ruling Mahayuti alliance on April 30, days ahead of May 3, the last day for filing nomination papers. With little time left for polling day, Ms. Jadhav is on a campaign spree, promising to take up redevelopment of dilapidated buildings in the constituency.

Shiv Sena’s Mumbai South seat candidate Yamini Jadhav (centre) with Maharashtra CM Eknath Shinde, Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis, and Republican Party of India (A) chief Ramdas Athawale during a public meeting for the Lok Sabha election in Mumbai on May 14, 2024.

Shiv Sena’s Mumbai South seat candidate Yamini Jadhav (centre) with Maharashtra CM Eknath Shinde, Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis, and Republican Party of India (A) chief Ramdas Athawale during a public meeting for the Lok Sabha election in Mumbai on May 14, 2024. | Photo Credit: PTI

Redevelopment project

It takes 17 minutes by car to cover Mohammed Ali Road, which begins from Bhendi Bazaar and ends at Colaba junction. The Bhendi Bazaar redevelopment cluster project was initiated in 2009 by the Saifee Burhani Upliftment Trust (SBUT) to redevelop the vicinity with a focus on its residents and their sociocultural needs. More than 80% of the buildings in the area have been declared dilapidated and unfit for living by the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority, and over 90% of the residents are tenants with no ownership rights.

“The entire 16.5-acre project is divided into nine self-sustained sub-clusters. Previously, there was no defined parking space in the area, and now the project will provide parking for about 3,500 cars. The inhabitants who were tenants before will now return as owners. We have completed the first phase of the project, while work on four buildings in the second phase is underway,” a spokesperson of the SBUT said.

Historians, however, point out that the SBUT redevelopment project has led to the loss of many historical streets. “There is a need to conserve many places with historical importance in the area and keep their original features intact. Minara Masjid and Zakaria Masjid of the Memon community, Darkhana Jamatkhana of the Khoja Ismailis, the Gate of Mercy Bene Israeli synagogue, and the Jhulelal Mandir are a few of the historical sites in the area that need to be preserved,” Vinayak Talwar, a heritage and history enthusiast who conducts heritage walks in Mumbai, said.

More than 80% of the buildings in the area have been declared dilapidated and unfit for living by the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority.

More than 80% of the buildings in the area have been declared dilapidated and unfit for living by the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority. | Photo Credit: Purnima Sah

‘Need development’

“My family has been living here for over 100 years and nothing has ever changed. How will this election change things for us?” Fathima Harun Halani Basat, 62, who sells sandal, a sweet dish, in the area lined with roadside vendors selling everything from electronics to antiques, said. No Ramzan food trail in the city is complete without a visit to Mohammed Ali Road, which comes alive during the festival with 24x7 food stalls.

“Politicians have only seen us as a vote bank and describe our area as ‘mini-Pakistan’ when they espouse the politics of hate,” Mohammad Abdul Kareem, a 74-year-old resident who has seen several elections in his lifetime but does not repose faith in any party, said.

Decorative lights put up for Ramzan this year on Mohammed Ali Road.

Decorative lights put up for Ramzan this year on Mohammed Ali Road. | Photo Credit: Gautam Doshi

“The only change our neighbourhood saw was the decorative lights put up for Ramzan this year by Maharashtra Speaker and Colaba MLA Rahul Narwekar, who was hoping to contest the Lok Sabha seat as a BJP candidate. All we expect when we vote is that our problems will be resolved,” Mr. Kareem said.

“Changing the names of railway stations or cities in Maharashtra won’t change the lives of people,” Abdul Rehman Khan, 29, who runs a restaurant in the area, said. “We need development more than religious politics right now. We will vote for the candidate who has a solid development plan for our area.”

“Elections have become just like any other seasonal event here and though we will cast our vote, we are not hopeful of change,” Shabana Hussain Mirza, 52, who sells bhandoli (pancakes), said. “It is difficult for residents of the area to reach hospitals during emergencies as ambulances cannot enter its congested lanes. People in distress have to walk to the main road to hail a taxi or wait for public transport, which is not frequent here.”

According to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, 73 houses collapsed in the area between January 2022 and March 2024.

According to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, 73 houses collapsed in the area between January 2022 and March 2024. | Photo Credit: Purnima Sah

‘Left to suffer’

“Politicians visit our area only during elections, distribute foodgrains or saris, and click photographs with us,” Abdul Hameed, 55, who works as a private taxi driver and mason, and lives in his century-old ancestral house, said. “Five years ago, the building opposite my house collapsed, killing 25 people, including children. Several buildings in the area developed cracks after that incident. We feel that we are needed only when elections come and are otherwise left to suffer.”

“Five years ago, the cluster redevelopment plan for Mohammed Ali Road was prepared and proposed, but no one is coming forward to invest and implement it. Most of the properties here are Waqf properties, given for religious and charitable purposes. Unless some proposal like the Dharavi Redevelopment Project comes up on Mohammed Ali Road, nobody will be interested in starting such a project here,” Amin Patel, sitting Congress MLA from Mumbadevi, said.

“The revenue from businesses and tourism on Mohammed Ali Road alone makes a major contribution to the country’s economy. I have proposed a plan to the State government for the overall redevelopment of south Mumbai. Under our regime, I will make sure holistic development is provided to the city and the area gets Maharashtra Tourism’s heritage tag,” Mr. Narwekar, a senior BJP leader, said.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in

Comments

Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.