For the first time in the history of Mumbai’s civic polls, 67 candidates, elected after consensus was built among citizen groups by three non-partisan forums, are vying to share space with political contestants. But will they deliver a game-changer or turn out to be a much-hyped media creation that finds little acceptance among the masses? Though the candidates are optimistic, experts and activists are uncertain of their success.
To begin with, except Adolf D’souza, the first citizen-consensus corporator and founder of Mumbai Nagriksatta, one of the three forums, most other candidates are political novices, with little or no knowledge of campaigning and reaching out to the people.
And even he is struggling to create an identity for himself. “Although people recognise me when I go campaigning, they don’t know that I am now standing from this ward,” said D’souza, who has moved from Juhu to Four bungalows (Andheri) ward because of reservations.
In addition, many insiders privately admit that the concept of citizen candidates suffered immensely due to the infighting between key players. Sarah George, assistant professor of humanities at KRV institute of architecture and environment studies, felt that the concept has failed to enthuse voters this time. “A major reason is that there has been a lot of mudslinging, even amongst the activists, leaving people wondering how they are different from politicians.”
Echoing her sentiments, AGNI activist James John said: “I don’t see any of the citizen candidates winning. The process was sacrosanct, but unfortunately, with so many forums and candidates eating into each other, the last laugh will be the politicians’.”
Many like George also feel that the movement is restricted to the middle and upper-middle classes. “The reality is that these classes are the most reluctant to vote. So, unless they don’t reach out to the lower-middle classes, the idea cannot be an outright success.”
Sherley Singh, a Mumbai 227 candidate from ward 64, however, is optimistic. “Politically, the concept is going to be a game-changer. People have been looking for this alternative to politics, and it’s finally here.”
But whether the voters accept or discard the alternative, both sides agree that the fact that it now exists is a start.