Blood is thicker than water, at least when what’s at stake is the control of one of India’s richest and most powerful civic bodies. Around 35 first-timers who are related to either a sitting or former corporator or a legislator have been allotted seats by the Shiv Sena, the NCP and the Congress.
While most leaders have batted for tickets for their spouses (wives), many have ensured that their daughters, and in one case, daughter-in-law, have got tickets.
Topping the list is the Sena, which has allotted tickets to 10 wives of corporators. The NCP has allotted tickets to five wives.
Parties claim this partiality towards wives is the fallout of 50% reservation for women. In the civic polls, of 227 seats, 113 seats will have women corporators.
Sena leader Subhash Desai feels there is nothing wrong with this trend. “Corporators who have worked hard are losing seats because of reservation. So we don’t mind letting wives contest in their place,” he said.
Congress spokesperson Sanjay Dutt agrees. “Because someone is a relative of a corporator or a legislator does not mean she is not good. She might be an activist in her own right,” he said.
Political analyst Uttara Sahasrabuddhe said the reservation is not responsible for this trend. “We have seen this trend before women’s reservations came in. Indian politics sees nepotism at the highest levels, and it is trickling down to the local level,” he said.
Proving his point are a couple - Yashwant Jadhav and his wife Yamini Jadhav - who have been given tickets and are contesting from adjacent wards. Jadhav argues: “My wife is a new candidate, but she works in the party’s women’s wing.”
The NCP’s Kaptan Malik and Dr Sayeeda Khan are siblings of legislator Nawab Malik and will contest from adjacent wards. Relatives, too, are in favour. Congress MLAs Rajhans Singh and Kalidas Kolambkar have got their sons to contest. MNS legislator Praveen Darekar has got his brother Prakash to contest from his home ward in Dahisar.
The trend has upset aspirants. “I am not against giving tickets to relatives, but not when they have done nothing. What is the worth of years of hard work we have put in?” asked Raja Chougule, a Sena rebel who is contesting as independent after his seat was given to the daughter-in-law of a senior leader.