While major political parties are slugging it out separately for the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) elections on February 21, gangster Arun Gawli’s party Akhil Bharatiya Sena (ABS) is struggling to keep its two seats intact in Byculla. Gawli is currently serving a life term for the murder of Shiv Sena corporator Kamlakar Jamsandekar in 2008.
The ABS, which had two corporators in the past two terms, played a crucial role last time when it propped up the Shiv Sena-BJP combine who were short of a majority in the 227- member corporation.
Though the ABS will fight 30 seats, its main focus would be to retain the seats held by members of the Gawli family — Arun Gawli’s daughter Geeta (ward no. 212) and her aunt, Vandana Gawli (ward no. 207).
According to Geeta, the election is a battle for ABS’ existence. “Here, we have a five-cornered fight with all established political parties fighting separately. As we are a small ward-level party, people are not aware of the work we did in the past decade,” said Geeta. “After delimitation, new areas have been added to our wards, and we need to show them the work we carried out in our old wards, ” she added.
Geeta also said absence of her father has hurt the prospects of the fledging party. Daddy (as Arun Galwi is famously referred to) has not been there for the past eight years. This has affected the growth of our party,” she added. Though Gawli, who is serving his life sentenceat Nagpur, has applied for parole, he is unlikely to be released before the polls.
Geeta, who debuted in the BMC in 2007, was able to bag the post of the chairman of the civic health committee as well as become a member of the civic standing committee, which controls the treasury of the BMC. She even contested the 2014 state Assembly elections from Byculla constituency against a political novice, Waris Pathan, from then new entrant All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen (AIMIM). This elections too, Gawli’s headache will be on countering the AIMIM among other parties.
Pathan is confident both the Gawlis will face defeat at the hands of the AIMIM. “Both of them neglected their wards and it was me who did tremendous work. The people now feel that having a corporator from AIMIM will help them and hence will vote for us,” said Pathan.