Congress to face fierce battle on home turf – Dharavi

Mumbai: Bad and congested roads, contaminated and less water, poor infrastructure, rampant illegal constructions, large scale lawlessness and the seemingly never-ending wait for implementing the redevelopment plan are some major issues which city’s Dharavi constituency is facing. The residents of Dharavi slums seek only basic amenities from their MLA and they claim they would keep all these issues in mind while casting their votes on October 21.

The Free Press Journal visited the multi-ethnic and multi-religious Dharavi constituency to know the issues, which require immediate attention. The constituency also known as ‘Chhota Tamil Nadu’ would be witnessing a tough battle between Congress and Shiv Sena with both trying to prove themselves in the 2019 assembly polls.

The three-time sitting MLA Varsha Gaikwad, daughter of former parliamentarian and present Mumbai Congress chief Eknath Gaikwad, though enjoys support of voters from all the communities, however, ‘anti-incumbency’ can go against her. She would be facing fierce fight from Shiv Sena’s Ashish More.

Gaikwad, who has been a member of the core team of Congress’ former president Rahul Gandhi, has been praised by many but has a few who are vocal against her. They accused Gaikwad of only constructing toilets in the area and then handing over the same to her own partymen to operate.

“In her three-terms tenure, Varsha has only built public toilets, which are run by her own party workers. She has failed to build schools, colleges or urban health centres in our area,” said Fakhrul, a resident.

“We need good schools and colleges for the better future of our children in Dharavi. We need better health centres but nothing of this sort has been made available to us. Varsha has constructed a sky-walk which is not used by major crowd here and thus is another wastage of her MLA funds,” Fakhrul added.

Dharavi, which is a house to scrap market of Mumbai, however, the scrap dealers are worst hit by the recent plastic ban and also by the introduction of Goods and Services Tax (GST). The constituency, which houses Asia’s largest slums, is facing acute shortage of water.

“This is because the timings for water have been reduced by two hours. Even the pressure of water has been cut,” said Raju Pappani, another resident.

“I have seen people shutting their business after this GST came into picture. Even plastic dealers have suffered a lot by the plastic ban. Varsha could have at least opposed it,” Raju added.

As far as the vote banks in the area are concerned, majority of the voters are from Muslim, Dalit and Hindu communities.

While Varsha has been enjoying support from Muslims and Dalits and also the Tamil speaking population in Dharavi, however, this time her vote bank can be disturbed with Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and AIMIM both fielding their candidates.

Notably, the Muslim votes can be diverted to BSP and AIMIM with both the political parties targeting the community for votes. Also, since the Dharavi seat has been reserved for Scheduled Caste (SC), all the candidates belong to the SC category, which would further mean that there can be a huge diversion of the Dalit votes.

Know your candidates

The three-time sitting MLA Varsha Gaikwad is the daughter of former parliamentarian and present Mumbai Congress chief Eknath Gaikwad.

Congress would be facing fierce fight from Shiv Sena’s Ashish More

Fact file

Nearly 10 lakh

30 per cent Muslims

Six per cent Christians

63 per cent Hindus including Dalits

One per cent other minorities

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