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Mumbai civic polls: Of gangsters and their kin

Last updated on: February 13, 2012 10:34 IST

Mumbai civic polls: Of gangsters and their kin

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A Ganesh Nadar in Mumbai

Mumbai has the richest Municipality in the country. And adding colour and spice to the civic polls that are to take place on February 16, are several elements from the under world. Interestingly, it is not the criminals themselves who are in the fray, but their kin. Rediff.com's Ganesh Nadar talks to some of them.

Arun Gawli, the erstwhile 'don' of central Mumbai is languishing in jail but that has not stopped his daughter and sister-in-law from contesting the civic polls. Both of them are already corporators, having tasted victory in 2007.

Gawli reigns in Dagdi Chawl in central Mumbai. This is also now the election office of Geeta, his daughter, for ward number 205 in Mumbai.

She drives her own luxury car and loves driving fast. As we wait outside her residence, she appears and jumps into her SUV; which prompts her supporters into action. Within seconds, the convoy is off before she tells us hurriedly, "Will speak to you in the evening."

In the evening, she comes fashionably late, but is not apologetic, and smiles at us.

She lists her achievements as a corporator for the last five years, "I have constructed a gym; gardens, made sure that the elderly get senior citizen cards and have improved the drainage system in my area. I have also sponsored beautician's course for unemployed girls."

She entered politics in 2007 and won. She has not been to college, but speaks fluent English. She denies that she intimidates her opponents and also insists that people respect and love her family as they have done a lot for the people in this area.

She doesn't deny that her father might have enemies. "Everyone has enemies; even you will have a few," she says.

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Image: Geeta Gawli with supporters
Photographs: A Ganesh Nadar

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'My father has been doing a lot of social work'

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She denies any violence on her father's part. "He does not even carry a gun. He has been a member of Legislative Assembly and a politician for many years. He has been doing a lot of social work".

You ask her if she aims to be a MLA in the future. "Now I am a corporator and I am happy with this job. We can do a lot for the people in this position. When the time comes to think ahead I will think about it. Not now."

"We get our own funds; we are not dependant on the Mayor's wishes. Every year we get funds under different heads. This year alone, we got Rs 1.35 crore and I used it for roads, buildings and other work".

She chooses the work that has to be done but the implementation is done by contractors. She denies that these contractors are 'friends'. "The contractor is not from my party, they are chosen by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation and not me".

Asked who her nearest rival was, she said there were none by God's grace, "But let us wait and see," she concludes. Just as she is finishing, a roar rises from the room outside, "Geeta Gawli ki  Jai".

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Image: Geeta's campaign vehicle
Photographs: A Ganesh Nadar

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'Why can't we be paid at the beginning of the rally?'

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Sunita Chavan is the sister of South East Asia-based don Chhota Rajan. His nephew is also contesting from another ward. The crowds in the office in Chembur are restless. At 4.30 pm there is a rally to garner support for her.

Her brother Dilip arrives. He starts by telling everyone to vacate the office and move to the starting point of the rally on the next road.

On the way from the office, we see a host of women sitting on the road. A man is writing down their names. When ask, and pat comes the reply, "We will be paid at the end of the rally".

Six women want the money before the rally. The man refuses. They stage a walkout after declaring, "On Friday, we attended the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena rally and they paid us at the beginning".

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Image: Dilip and Sunita Chavan with Ramdas Athavle during a rally in Mumbai
Photographs: A Ganesh Nadar

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'Why can't you put a flag on the car'

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Dilip is screaming at a man in a car. "Why can't you put a flag on the car?" Reprimanded, the man immediately goes looking for one.

As the Election Commission keeps a tab on the number of cars used, almost a 100 bikes have been organised for the rally.

Ramdas Athavle, chief, Republican Party of India has come to lead the rally, their own flags and their allies; the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Shiv Sena.

Sunita is the last to arrive. As soon as she gets in an open jeep, the rally starts. The bikes start with a huge roar and the youth shout equally loudly.

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Image: Bikers at Dilip's rally
Photographs: A Ganesh Nadar

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'A corporator can become a billionaire in 5 years'

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Rajapandi Nadar was the undisputed 'king' of Bhandup in the 70s. There were many small-time bootleggers in the area, but that was not for 'Pandiya seth', as he was known. He used to brew 12,000 litres of the stuff, load it in a petrol lorry and distribute it all over the city.

He was the president of Tamil Peravai, which was founded than none other than Vardarajan Mudaliar, another don of notoriety. He was also the president of the Bhandup Congress Committee. In 1984, he asked the party to contest the assembly elections, but the party refused.

Pandiya then chose his own candidate, a professor from a local college. As it turned out, the professor won, leaving the Congress red-faced.

History has repeated itself in the 2012 municipal elections when Pandiya's nephew Saravanan, who owns a construction business, asked the Congress for a ticket, and the party refused.

An adamant Saravanan has filed his nomination as an independent candidate. His party's symbol is a whistle, and so they are distributing whistles around the area.

Saravanan, who has a heavy gold chain around his neck and a gold bracelet, says, "Why call me a criminal? I have only four cases against me. They have been filed because my detractors have bribed the cops. Let the courts declare the judgment."

"The Shiv Sena candidate has serious cases against him," he claims.

There are 45,000 voters in his constituency. Saravanan claims to personally know 7,000 voters, and adds that is enough to win the elections.

Jaipandian, his uncle confides, "Once you become a corporator, you become a billionaire in five years. Saravanan is doing well as a builder, but as a Corporator he will go far ahead and very quickly."

Mumbai residents have a choice of politicians who are from recognised parties, from families of Dons and also candidates from citizen groups who call themselves Mumbai 227 and the Lok Satta movement.

We will know who the citizens prefer on the 16th.


Image: Pandiya's nephew Saravanan
Photographs: A Ganesh Nadar

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