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A success story made in Mumbai

Lakhmendra Khurana is an unlikely politician. It’s been 16 years since the UP native came to the city, to start a garments business. He then went on to set up a call centre in Andheri in 1998 that today has clients in the US, UK and Australia, with Canada soon to be added to the list, reports Snehal Rebello.

india Updated: Apr 13, 2009 01:57 IST

Lakhmendra Khurana is an unlikely politician. It’s been 16 years since the Uttar Pradesh native came to the city, to start a garments business. He then went on to set up a call centre in Andheri in 1998 that today has clients in the US, UK and Australia, with Canada soon to be added to the list.

On Saturday afternoon, under a searing sun, the 51-year-old was out in the slums of Kandivli (East), asking residents to vote for him as the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) candidate from Mumbai North constituency, spread from Malad to Dahisar.

“The Congress has been talking about transforming Mumbai into Shanghai. Instead, they should have got rid of slums, set up dormitories and give them a more reputable life. I’ve experienced so much poverty that I know what it is like,” he said.

Khurana’s life is a rags-to-riches story. During partition, his father moved from Pakistan’s Punjab to Uttar Pradesh empty-handed. “I’ve worked for 20 hours a day to earn Rs 100. With a small patch of land, I started farming followed by a coal business, which I shut in 1991,” said the graduate from Meerut.

As chairperson and managing director of Excel Infoways, a BPO firm with offices in Andheri and Chandigarh, he has movable and immovable assets worth Rs 10.72 crore as declared in his affidavit.

“When I lost my ailing son due to lack of adequate healthcare facilities back home, I decided to come to Mumbai,” he said. “And today, it’s only because I am here that I could send my daughter to the US for higher studies. The city has given me everything.”

Associated with the BSP for 25 years, Khurana, also the party’s general secretary in Maharashtra since 2005, describes his relation with party chief Mayawati as personal. “No intermediaries are needed when Behenji and I interact.”

With 70 per cent of the constituency comprising Below Poverty Line (BPL) Dalits, Muslims and north Indian voters, this Khatri (Kshatriya caste) Punjabi candidate is counting on their votes. However, he is quick to add, “We are not seeking votes on basis of caste but on economic deprivation. We want to give those below poverty line a good quality of life.”

While busy doing the rounds of the slums, his eyes are also set on upper class voters. Being associated with the Lions Club for 15 years — it has 5,000 members in the constituency — and as chairman of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, he is positive of the corporate sector supporting him — courtesy his personal contacts.

Referring to the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena’s recent north Indian bashing, he said, “I am not differentiating between Maharashtrians and north Indians. If we come to power, all are going to be treated equal.”

While the issues being raised by him are the same as his rival BJP candidate Ram Naik — railways, metro project, infrastructure and terrorism — Khurana is optimistic of getting about 5 lakh votes.

“Naik is old and the party doesn’t have a clear manifesto. Muslims will not vote for Sanjay Nirupam (Congress candidate from Mumbai North) because of his former Sena alliances.”

First Published: Apr 13, 2009 01:55 IST