Joshi leaves electorate cold
On the campaign trail, Manohar Joshi, Speaker of the dissolved Lok Sabha who is again contesting from the Mumbai North-Central constituency, promises the moon to the residents of Dharavi, the largest slum in Asia.
It is another matter that he normally avoids walking in the area's congested lanes and by-lanes. The rival Congress candidate, Eknath Gaekwad, has even made Joshi's absence an issue.
The campaign in the Dadar area leaves Joshi satisfied.
The lines of firecrackers stretch longer than the Shiv Sena-BJP procession. Some middle-aged people dance in front of Joshi's jeep to the tuneless beat of the accompanying brass band.
They hold currency notes between their teeth. Joshi laughs heartily.
The busy tailors in Madhawadi don't even lift their heads to register the presence of the visitor. Some people in Vasanji Park area argue about who among the half-a-dozen leaders standing in the open jeep is Joshi.
They conclude that the fat man must be the local MP. "A national leader who promises big and looks big." But it is a case of mistaken identity.
Joshi has something for all the six assembly constituencies in the area.
"I have to fulfil the demand of our Muslim sisters for a maternity home in Nehru Nagar. Mahim Chowpati should be beautified. The PM has approved an extensive rehabilitation project for Dharavi. The hawkers in the Dadar area need better space. The problems in the other two areas seek urgent attention," he says.
The slogans remind the people that Joshi is a former principal of college. "I have done MA and graduation in law and taught for so many years," he says. "Balasaheb Thackeray has shaped me for politics. The voters will fulfil his desire again."
Most of the slogans are raised in support of Thackeray and PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Joshi's name comes up only occasionally.
"He has got the blessings of President Abdul Kalam Azad, Vajpayee and Thackeray," someone announces from a loudspeaker. Name-dropping is a compulsion for Joshi, even if it is wrong to use the President's name in this context.
But Joshi needs all the help he can get. Many voices are raised against him. They all ask the same question: "Where was he for the last four-and-a-half years?
Joshi’s opponent says
* “I am the star of my area", says Congress nominee and minister of state for public health Eknath Gaikwad. "My work speaks volumes. Besides, the voters of this area dislike Manohar Joshi, due to his holier than thou attitude"
* “They (the Sena) hold Hema Malini's public meeting to woo the South Indians, Rajnath Singh's for North Indians, introduce some Muslim leader from their platform and believe that Muslims would vote for them”
* “People know the meaning of poll promises. His party chief Bal Thackeray had promised 40 lakh houses to the poor. Manohar Joshi has been a CM, now he is in the Lok Sabha. What has he done for the people?”