After extending “support” to dahi handi events and Ganesh pandals, politicians are busy helping Navratri mandals across the city with cash and kind.
Milind Deora, Congress Member of Parliament, has erected a permanent stage at the venue and concretised the stretch leading to the Currey Road Navratri Mandal.
“The place will be put to community use even after the festival,” said Deora.
Ram Kadam, a legislator from the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), said he spends Rs 17 to Rs 18 lakh during the festival every year by funding various mandals.
“I cannot say no to anyone because they are my voters,” said Kadam.
The festival goes on for nine nights to worship the nine forms of Goddess Durga. In recent years, the scale at which Navratri is celebrated in Mumbai has assumed large proportions.
Upendra Doshi, Congress corporator from Sion, sponsors idols of the goddess for celebrations at Shivaji Nagar and Sion Koliwada.
“They [the organisers] are party volunteers and we have to take care of them,” Doshi said. He also distributes utensils to women who come from Andhra Pradesh every year to perform the garba.
Bhalchandra Shirsat, Bharatiya Janata Party legislator from Ghatkopar, ensures mandals get the required government permissions easily.
“I follow up their permissions issues as well as handle the paper work in government departments to ensure that they have no hassles,” said Shirsat.
Political experts say festivals have now become a forum for political mobilisation.
“The organisers of these mandals enjoy considerable clout in their areas and this helps politicians during their elections,” said Prakash Bal, a senior political analyst.
Organisers defend the involvement of politicians in the festival.
“Local donations are hardly 25 per cent of the cost we incur and we have to depend on donations from outside for the rest,” said Sandeep Thakur, a volunteer with Youngstar Mitra Mandal at Sion.
“The politician is, after all, our own man.”