January 30, 2017 3:42:40 am
The Akhil Bhartiya Sena (ABS), which has a modest area of strong support in and around Byculla in south-central Mumbai, will in all probability defend its turf this time against the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen (AIMIM), which has emerged as the strongest challenger to the two seats in Byculla controlled by the ABS after winning the Byculla seat in the last Assembly elections. The ABS, which had withdrawn its support to the Sena-BJP in 2012 at being sidelined, may decide to extend support to the Sena once again, now that the Sena is going it alone, according to sources.
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However, the 20-year-old ABS founded by gangster-turned-politician Arun Gawli will field eight candidates in the coming polls, said party leaders, though not all from the E ward where its two sitting corporators are based.
Despite the party’s meagre presence in the BMC, both ABS corporators have been nominated to multiple statutory committees in the BMC after being elected for their second term in 2012.
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While Gawli’s daughter Geeta Gawli from Ward 205 had been the chairperson of the Public Health Committee for three years and a member of the all-important Standing Committee for four years, his sister-in-law Vandana Gawli from Ward 204 is currently a member of the Improvements Committee.
In an attempt to expand its presence in the city, the party will field candidates from areas such as Ghatkopar, Kurla, Chembur and Malad apart from their stronghold in Byculla. The two sitting corporators will also contest to retain their seats. “We will try to bring in some fresh faces and we are trying to make sure that we can work for people from other parts of the city as well,” said Geeta Gawli.
She said the party campaign would focus on issues left unattended. “Many hospitals, especially those in the suburbs, need more staff. Apart from that, I will follow up my proposal of setting up a new software at municipal dispensaries to keep track of expenses, and drugs being given out to people,” said Geeta. Vandana said she would take up the issue of Hancock bridge among other civic issues such as collection of garbage near the Byculla station area.
Agreeing that Samajwadi Party and AIMIM could pose a tough competition this year, Geeta said they hoped to connect with as many people as possible. “By February 8, we will start our door-to-door campaign. In both the wards in Byculla, a part of our old wards now fall under another ward after the process of delimitation. More than 65 per cent of the people in my ward are Muslims and with parties like MIM and SP contesting, there is more of a need to meet each and every resident,” she said.
Arun Gawli, currently lodged in Nagpur jail, will be unable to participate in the election planning.
MIM’s Byculla MLA Waris Pathan, meanwhile, said his party was confident of winning a majority of the municipal seats in Byculla. “We will definitely field a candidate from Geeta Gawli’s ward and we have a good chance of winning. Even though we did not have any sitting corporator in Byculla, we worked a lot in the area and the people are aware of that. In fact, in the past two years, many people were turned away by them (Gawlis) and we helped them when they approached us,” said Pathan.
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