Though the deadline for campaigning ended on Tuesday evening, wafer-thin margins in the closely contested civic polls drove candidates to make clandestine last-ditch efforts to woo voters all through Wednesday.
These included secret meetings in housing societies and slum pockets, as well as doling out of cash and liquor in the wee hours to stay off the radar of election officials. Such gatherings are called chuha meetings, to signify rats coming out of burrows at nights to escape predators.
Emissaries of the candidates have been meeting key residents of buildings and slum leaders who can ensure at least 100 votes in their favour and offered them money and sponsored trips.
Some met members of the managing committees of major housing societies in the western suburbs and promised to pool in funds to repaint the society or erect a security gate if the candidate is elected.
“This election is tough for me as I am being opposed by the son of a legislator, who is pulling out all stops to ensure my defeat. I have visited slum pockets in my area to tell voters to continue to be on my side,” said Rajendraprasad Chaube, Congress candidate from Dahisar. Sources also say that a heavyweight contesting from Dadar has allegedly offered Rs25,000 for 200 votes.
The night before the polls, money is distributed in slums, as candidates don’t want to take the risk of upsetting the voters, according to sources. A candidate from Central Mumbai said, “Providing food and liquor to supporters has become routine. But the voters are becoming more demanding. Residents of a chawl in our ward asked for disbursement of society maintenance and cable charges for five years.”
Party insiders say that these arrangements are made by close aides of the corporators, who don’t get directly involved.
Arvind Gawde, chief of MNS’ south Mumbai unit, said he has been holding meetings with the candidates and party workers to ensure high voter turnout from the party’s strongholds. “We are sending the right people to the right places to ensure that our candidates are voted,” he said.