If a vote is the power given to a citizen to change his living conditions for the better, then why not use it to tell politicians how they can go about with the task? This seems to be the motto of citizen groups in H-west ward of Mumbai, which covers Bandra, Khar and Santacruz (West), who ensure they give a list of dos, in other words political agenda, to candidates approaching them for votes.
Considered a hotbed of citizen activism, the H-west ward, has 125 registered advanced locality managements (ALMs) and residents’ associations.
Of these, 70-odd associations are actively involved in the daily working of the civic administration and are in touch with the elected representatives to get grievances addressed and public work done.
This makes the ALMs the trusted voice among voters. Consequently, instead of relying on votes from a particular community, candidates from this ward have to approach ALMs to woo voters. Anandini Thakoor, chairperson of H-west federation, said, “We have been telling citizens to vote for the right candidate and most importantly to vote. More than political parties, we are looking at who is contesting. We want our issues to be solved. The one who can give us good roads and clean area will definitely win our support.”
A senior civic official from H-west ward said, “Corporators need to pay attention to complaints from ALMs. Our officers, too, are on their toes.”
Each ALM includes at least one member from a neighbouring locality. On an average, each ALM has 20 members from 20 buildings in a locality, who spread awareness on candidates through society meetings.
The ward, which is spread across area 11.6 sqkm and has a population of 3.29 lakh, is known for its heritage structures such as old churches and gaothans.
The ward is a mix of all communities -- Khar Danda mainly houses fisherfolk, the slums towards Bandra reclamation have a substantial Muslim population and Pali village has a large number of Christians.
The ward known as one of the plush areas of western suburbs has witnessed a real estate boom over the years, but has been suffering owing to illegal hawkers, ill-maintained roads and footpaths. In 2015, the residents of Bandra, including celebrities such as Rishi Kapoor, had come together against the civic body’s decision of allowing hawkers in residential areas of Pali Hill.
The ward saw 41.59% voting during the 2012 civic polls. Shyama Kulkarni, convener of AGNI from H-West ward, said, “It is important to see the work of the candidate, so we get better amenities in the next five years. AGNI is holding a meeting of citizens for voters’ awareness.”
Corporators from the Congress have been in constant touch with activists over the years. To counter this and attract citizens, the BJP has nominated a citizen activist to contest from ward no. 101, which covers Bandra Talao and Chimbai village. Deryk Talker of Wake Up Bandra will be contesting against current Congress corporator Asif Zakaria. The ward has an activist Shane Cardoz contesting as an independent candidate.
Another electoral ward no. 100 will witness a battle between Karen D’Mello, current Congress corporator, and Brinal Fernandes, the only Christian candidate fielded by the Sena in the Christian-dominated Pali village.
Zakaria, said, “The work I have done in the past will help me as citizens in this ward are active.”
Talker, said, “I have been doing work in this area, but getting a ticket from a political party will only help give my work a push. My focus will be development works starting from clearing the hawkers’ menace, fixing bad footpaths and roads.”