After serving the country in the Indian Air Force, Indian Army for years, three candidates from Mumbai are contesting the BMC elections this year as independent candidates. The three ex-servicemen from the armed forces said they came together to be “part of the system and solve the problems in Mumbai.”
Dattaram Naik, 65, joined the Indian Air Force at the age of 17 in the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war. After 14 years of service, he retired from the force in 1985. Naik continued to work as a security manager in the private sector and retired in 2012. Even after his arduous career, Naik still has some fight left in him and he wants to use it in making the city a little better.
“We have been working for the ex-servicemen, so we thought why not work for the people. The politicians who win the election get work done, but it is not up to standard. We will see to it that the roads that are built should last at least five years,” said Naik, the candidate from ward no. 2 (Dahisar).
A father to two daughters – one a fashion designer and another a graphic visualizer – Naik has been an active member of the ex-servicemen’s group. His wife teaches slum-dwellers basic handiwork like stitching.
Naik’s colleague Madhukar Vajantri is contesting from ward no. 40 (Dindoshi). A 55-year-old advocate, Vajantri was with the Air Force as a junior commissioned officer. During his service over two decades, he also got a law degree and now practices law in the Bombay high court.
“The corrupt nexus between some corporators and contractors needs to be stopped. It is difficult to change things from outside the system, hence we have decided to contest the civic polls this time,” said Vajantri.
Vajantri has also started an English medium school for farmers’ children free of cost in Vave, a village few kilometres away from Alibaug. The Divine English School run by a trust provides primary education since its inception in 2013 and currently has 150 students.
Alex Joseph, 39, is set to fight from ward no. 178 (Wadala-Dadar). After serving in the Indian Army, Joseph has turned to politics to work for the people. He is currently pursuing a diploma in sanitation inspection.
Their campaign manager Sujit Apte is retired from the Indian Army. Supported by 600 armed forces’ personnel in the city, the members have been actively campaigning for the three independent candidates, according to Apte.
“We are campaigning using the pension that the retired men of the force receive. These men are contesting independently because we don’t want to carry any party’s agenda, but honestly work for the people. We have decided to work not under any political party’s flag, but under the flag of India,” said Apte.
Apte has promised that his informal group will not form a political party. “We have also kept a condition that after becoming a corporator, they will not contest again. There is discipline among us and using the same, we want to end the dynasty culture in politics.”
The group has also launched a number 8976776708 – using which they aim to hear citizen’s issues and address them .