Perception is everything in politics as two former corporators discovered to their dismay in the recently concluded civic polls.
Shiv Sena's Keshav Gawande from Kannamwar Nagar, Vikhroli (ward number 112) and BJP corporator Govardhan Chauhan from Parsi Colony (ward number 174) were booted out from their respective wards as they were perceived to be favouring private businesses at the cost of open spaces.
In the run up to the campaign, Hindustan Times had reported as part of the paper's Your voice, your vote campaign how residents of the two wards rallied to save open spaces in their wards.
Gawande, Mayor Datta Dalvi's hand picked nominee, was defeated by Mangesh Sangle of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena. Sangle, riding high on public sentiment, made most of the drive against "privatisation" of the sprawling Veer Sambhaji Grounds. Dalvi was adamant on building an indoor stadium with a gymnasium, carom room, multipurpose hall on the open ground.
Kannamwar Nagar, a Sena stronghold, had elected Dalvi for the last three terms. Vijay Pagare, president, Amar Mitra Mandal, a citizens group, calls it a victory for the people. "Power had gone into Dalvi's head and he was pushing for the plan (to build the stadium) despite our opposition. Today citizens have shown him his place," said Pagare.
Sangle called the Rs 2.16 crore allotted for the project a waste of money. "The local civic hospital is in bad shape and here we have Dalvi diverting the whole amount for an indoor stadium. Dalvi had planned to privatise the ground and take over the reins," said Sangle.
For the last year, residents held meetings, signature campaigns and protests against the plan. Dalvi however brushed the entire issue saying his nominee lost due to delimitation. "The plan was dropped by me after protests. I still have the citizens support," he said.
Similarly, Chauhan had proposed an amusement park on the historic Five Gardens, a move opposed by residents. In his campaign Raghnath Thawai of the Congress, who defeated Chauhan, stressed that the park would spoil the area's tranquillity and was meant only for rich residents.
The proposed amusement park would have murals, skating rinks, food courts and jogging tracks. Mehernosh Fitter, vice president, Dadar Matunga Association said, "This is a ridiculous idea; instead of preserving and maintaining the place, the corporator was trying to destroy it."
Thawai says he will not rest till the whole plan is shelved. "My campaign was simple as I asked the people whether they want natural surroundings or some artificial park," said Thawai. "It would be pity and great loss to the city if the open space is encroached," said Thawai.
Both corporators have pledged to oppose any plans to privatise the grounds and also start an agitation if the plans are revived.