A few days ago, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena’s ( MNS) Malabar Hill candidate, Rajendra Shirodkar, was addressing morning walkers at Tata Gardens on Warden Road. Someone attempted a question in broken Marathi, which Shirodkar replied to in English. “People were surprised. The fact that an MNS candidate could speak English was new to them,” said Shirodkar, a practising advocate for 30 years.
A first-time candidate, Shirodkar is reaching out to affluent pockets of the constituency in an attempt to change the MNS’ image as a violent party with a ‘Marathi manoos’ agenda.
The MNS has very little traction in the Malabar Hill constituency, home to many among the country’s richest.
“Our image is different particularly among residents of high-rises,” said Shirodkar. “But what I’m trying to say is, ‘we aren’t what you feel we are’.”
With that in mind, Shirodkar wants to project himself as an educated, development-oriented candidate.
“I’m trying to tell people, ‘look here – an educated candidate is making a genuine attempt and wants to do something good for you’,” he said.
Girg aum, Peddar Road, Breach Candy and Tardeo are all part of the constituency.
Shirodkar isn’t counting on support merely from the Maharashtrian-dominated areas of the area.
He is also actively campaigning in housing societies, highrises and Parsi colonies.
Fully aware of his limitations in the constituency, Shirodkar feels a part of the process is building a base.
“I know I won’t get votes in the name of my party, but as a candidate I can make a difference,” he said. “I want to build the image of the party.”
Shirodkar, who is close to MNS chief Raj Thackeray, helped draft the recently-released development blueprint, which was eight years in the making.
“We may not win, but the MNS also means business. This party doesn’t just indulge in hooliganism,” Shirodkar said.
He is up against sitting MLA Mangal Prabhat Lodha (BJP), Susieben Shah ( Congress), Arvind Dudhwadkar (Shiv Sena) and Narendra Rane (NCP).