Lok Sabha elections 2019: In south central Mumbai battleground, old guard takes on young gun
In 2004 Lok Sabha elections, a low-profile, unassuming Congress candidate Eknath Gaikwad emerged as a ‘giant killer’, defeating former chief minister and then Lok Sabha speaker Manohar Joshi from Mumbai South Central constituency. Fifteen years on, Gaikwad, 79, is hoping to repeat history, this time taking on the sitting Shiv Sena MP Rahul Shewale, who is 34 years younger to him.
Gaikwad’s focus is clear –the failure of the Narendra Modi-led Government, and Shewale’s poor performance in raising his voice in Delhi to make Mumbai a world-class city.
Shewale’s defence? He says he played a major role in getting infrastructure projects as well as record funding for the railways. “Where are the jobs promised by Modi,” asks Gaikwad, as he goes about with his campaign, through padayatra, motorbike rally and rath yatras.
Shewale maintains his party, Shiv Sena, is committed to Mumbai and he has done everything possible to raise the issues of the Metro city in Parliament. “People are tired of the dynasty politics of the Gaikwad family. Eknath Gaikwad has been a public representative since 1985, but his achievements are zero. His performance as a two-term MP is lacklustre,” said Shewale.
What about local issues such as redevelopment of India’s largest slum, Dharavi, pollution in Mahul, slowdown in the revamp of slums and old buildings as well as commuting woes.
Right to Information Act (RTA) activist Bhaskar Prabhu, who is also a voter from the constituency, is not impressed with Shewale’s performance. “The MPs hardly interact with the electorate or raise the issues concerning them,” said Prabhu.
The contestants beg to differ. “I was responsible for the Dharavi redevelopment project, but the Shiv Sena raised unnecessary demands and derailed the scheme. I was striving to make Mumbai a world-class city, but now the entire focus of the NDA Government is Gujarat and our MP just sits quiet,” said Gaikwad.
In contrast, Shewale says that the Dharavi project will kickstart in a month as two major hurdles of funding and vacant land have been solved.