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Laughter, picnics for votebanks

Corporators join laughter clubs, go jogging to woo voters, reports Naresh Kamath.

india Updated: Dec 27, 2006 17:07 IST

The battle for the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation is drawing closer and the many hopefuls are trying novel methods to woo voters, from taking senior citizens out for a weekend picnic to networking among members of laughter clubs.
Though their nominations are still to be announced, these early starters have begun campaigning for the February 1 election in this manner, in the hope of gaining a headstart over the competition.

Many of them need it too.

Take Suresh Kale, a sitting Shiv Sena corporator from Kamathipura who took 80 senior citizens on a trip last weekend. He faces an uphill task this time, battling with former Sena strongman Kiran Surve, who has de fected to the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS).

Kale, though, insisted the picnic nothing to do with the elections. “These old people are lonely and it was just an effort on my part to bring a little happiness into their lives. I just wanted their blessings,” he said.

In Kurla, Rajendra Lad, a former Shiv Sena corporator who recently joined the MNS, is also working hard. He is not sparing anyone, from joggers to laughter club members.

These days, Lad begins his day at 6 am, doing the rounds of the local parks in a bid to meet joggers.

“I meet joggers and other citizens to understand their problems. Since the meeting is informal, there is a lot of interaction between us,” he said.

In the evening, Lad makes a point of attending laughter clubs and women’s groups meetings in the vicinity.

“These clubs play a significant role locally. I have been keeping in touch with all of them for long,” he said.

Former deputy mayor Babubhai Bhavanji, currently with the Congress, is meeting businessmen in the Sion-Matunga belt, from where he plans to contest.

A large chunk of the residents in the area are businessmen and Bhavanji has been promising the businessmen he will try to get octroi duty abolished.

Shiv Sena Goregaon corporator Sugandha Shetye takes part in the meetings of the various mahila mandals in her ward. There are 25 such mandals in her ward and most of them run micro-finance schemes for poor women.

“December is a busy time every year for these mandals and I always spend a large part of the month advising women on savings schemes,” Shetye said.

Prakash Bobdi, who currently represents Ward 75 in Khar (West), has lost a major chunk of his ward in the recent delimitation (reorganisation of wards to reflect changes in population pressure).

He has come up with a novel way to impress new entrants in his ward: every time he goes to meet these new voters, he takes along certain prominent citizens from his previous ward to testify before them that he has delivered what he promised.