Seasoned politicians from the Dharavi civic ward, used to the rumble and tumble of electoral politics, are a nervous bunch this time around.
Contesting opposite them are ordinary voters — small time businessmen and even housewives — all fighting on the plank of Dharavi Bachao Samitee.
The Samitee has fielded six candidates at Dharavi and the members are holding door-to-door campaign against the ambitious Dharavi Redevelopment plan. They want locals to be consulted in the entire process. "Dharavi has a huge cottage industry in the slums where residents operate from their houses. The entire industry would collapse if the residents are forcibly shifted to the skyscrapers," said Raju Korde, President of the Samitee and candidate from Ward number 176.
Dharavi is the biggest slum in Asia and the state government proposes to undertake the largest rehabilitation project in this 535 - acre pocket, which is the home for approximately three lakhs citizens. The plan worth Rs 7500 crores includes changing the entire profile of the area into a swanky residential and commercial centre. However, there have been a lot of apprehensions in the local population over the entire project.
The Samitee was formed in 2005 and has been fighting over the issue. It is contesting the seats from the Third Front on the symbol of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).
Both candidates, Chandraprabha Patil (49) and Sweety Suryanvanshi (25), both housewives say the plan would only serve to drive the locals out of the place.
"First they killed our fishing trade by reclaiming the creek and building Bandra Kurla complex and now they want to drive us out of our homes. How can the poor locals survive in posh buildings?" asked Patil, standing from Ward no 180.
However, when asked about the lack of adequate man and money power, Suryavanshi says, "The locals have to decide that we are fighting for our existence and they should not be swayed by temporary considerations. Women folk are my biggest strength."
Opponents dismiss any threat and have expressed displeasure that the Samitee is used by members to fulfill political ambitions. "The government is still preparing the plans and such a huge project takes time. The Samitee members are just exploiting the issue and spreading false canards," said Mahendra Shinde, the sitting Congress corporator. "I am myself following the issue and have held several meetings with the officials," clarified Shinde.