Followed by an entourage of women, with the slogan of ‘Yaad rakhiye teer kaman (please remember bow and arrow)’ ringing out over the microphone repeatedly in the background, Shiv Sena’s sitting corporator and leader of the House Trushna Vishwasrao was welcomed by many housewives with the traditional greeting of exchanging haldi-kumkum when she visited her ward Wednesday. Majority of the ward Vishwasrao is contesting from comprises slums, and with less than two weeks left for the day of voting, visiting every household in slums is a prominent part of her campaign.
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Vishwasrao is a familiar face in the slums of Wadala. While she has been a corporator since 1992, she represented the area around Antop Hill for one term, which is now part of Ward 179. On Wednesday, her campaign trail started from the City Tower, one of the few residential buildings in her ward, and continued onto the Vishwasrao Chawl and then proceeded to a cluster of five chawls, including Deoram Dada and Ajmira Yadav chawls.
Vishwasrao was accompanied by her entire family, including husband Chandrakant Vishwasrao, daughter Prajakta, son Abhijeet and her 83-year old mother-in-law Nirmala Vishwasrao. “My family members are all working professionals but they participate in my election campaign. Apart from my husband and children, my five brothers-in-law and their children also support me during the campaigning activities,” she said.
Amid constant sloganeering, a couple of party workers carried out the task allotted to them — updating people about necessary information about the candidate. Apart from publicising Shiv Sena’s symbol, the announcements referred to the work taken up by Vishwasrao in the last five years and urged voters to continue to support Sena. The slogans referred to the BJP and the Congress as “cobra” and “poisonous snakes” who were against development. “What is the point of supporting someone who has done nothing for you? Don’t bring an outsider. Vishwasrao has worked for your ward and has helped everyone. She has come for your blessings and you should support her,” said one of the party workers.
During the door-to-door visits, Vishwasrao said, she had to inform the people that Sena was contesting without the BJP this year. “Many people don’t watch news on television and they are unaware of the fact that we have broken the alliance with the BJP. In fact, several NCP supporters told us they would support us because we are not with the BJP any more,” she said. Vishwasrao has also been conducting meetings at some of the houses in the neighbourhood to discuss their issues.
Her campaign strategy has been prepared with the help of the gat pramukh and upshakha pramukhs of the party’s offices in the area. After the delimitation, the Mumbai Port Trust chawl in Wadala has now been included in Ward 179, which has brought around 1,200 additional voters into the picture. “Earlier, majority of my ward was Muslims. But now 45 per cent are Muslims and the remaining 55 per cent are Marathis, Parsis and others. Our gat pramukhs have been roped in to plan the campaign for the newly added area,” she said.
While most women voters assured her of continued support, there were a few like 52-year-old Ram Lakhan, a resident of Deoram Dada chawl for 30 years, who dropped a gentle reminder to drop by even after winning the elections. Residents of Deoram Dada chawl located on the slope of a hilly area were very vocal about their issues — largely inadequate water supply and lack of electricity in the toilets.
Naseem Haidar Shaikh, 60, said, “Since our house is at the upper part of the hill, we barely get any water and we have to go down every day. No one has given us a lasting solution even though this is such a basic need.” Vishwasrao said the pressure of water was low due to the difference in altitude, but assured them of taking care of the problem.