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Citizens for change: These Mumbaikars take political plunge

Friday February 10, 2012 12:03:31 PM, Quaid Najmi , IANS

Mumbai: Tired of a self-serving political class repeatedly letting down their beloved city and not content with just griping about it, a group of Mumbaikars is contesting the upcoming civic polls with a single agenda -- change.

The independent candidates, with no political background, are being supported by an umbrella organisation called 'Mumbai 227' -- named after the 227 wards under the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).

The group was formed a few months ago by people like former director general of police of Punjab and ex-ambassador to Romania, Julio F. Ribeiro, former chief secretary and ex-BMC chief V.S. Ranganathan and former additional chief secretary (home) Chandra Iyengar, who is on the advisory board of Mumbai 227.

The group is supporting 60 independent candidates across the city for the Feb 16 polls.

The candidates include a theatre actor, Right to Information (RTI) activists, teachers, an IITian, chartered accountants, a food adulteration racket buster, a taxi driver, lawyers, teachers, social activists, event managers, a policeman's wife and a host of small businessmen.

Among them is retired captain Vijay Shivdasani, 69, a former naval officer commander of the aircraft carrier INS Vikrant.

"I am truly overwhelmed by the public response but feel exhausted by the electioneering process," Shivdasani told IANS.

The 'action' on the political scene was proving a tad too much for the former navyman, who effortlessly took part in attacks on Karachi and the then East Pakistan in the Bay of Bengal before it took birth as Bangladesh, landing commandos in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, or shepherding top Indian leaders like Indira Gandhi and her son Rajiv Gandhi when they visited installations as prime minister.

His ward is No.227, comprising the RC Church, Colaba Dandi and Navy Nagar, the place where he was born, lived and worked.

Allotted a ceiling fan as his poll symbol, Shivdasani rues that the election department does not appear to take independent candidates seriously.

"All kinds of hurdles are created at different levels. Even the poll symbols are allotted too late, which we are not able to publicise sufficiently," said Shivdasani, who is pitted against 12 other candidates in the small ward.

Shivdasani has been campaigning door-to-door, admitting that it's a tough job, especially as political parties have their own base and a fixed number of votes to rely on.

According to a spokesperson of Mumbai 227, the candidates have been selected by a panel including Rebeiro, Ranganathan and others.

"We want to bring in transparency and accountability in governance by bringing good people, of high integrity with innovative thinking, into the system," spokesperson Santosh A. said, adding that keeping in mind the city's cosmopolitan character, people from all backgrounds have been fielded.

He said that even if 10-15 percent of their candidates emerge victorious, it'll send out an important message -- that politics should not be abhorred by the middle-class and people do care for good, clean candidates.

While the group tries to cover the poll expenses through the donations it raises, most candidates don't mind spending from their own pockets.

All the candidates also support the Jan Lokpal Bill mooted by Team Anna, he added.

Some of the Mumbai 227-supported candidates include Harishchandra Savla, who is fighting against milk and food adulteration, Varsha Jain, a writer and lyricist, Ward No.150 (TungveVillage-Chandivli Village), Ashwani Kadam, wife of a cop, Ward No.195 (Ranjeet Studios Naigaum-BDD Chawl) who is fighting for the rights of tenants and sanitation.

(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at







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