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Meet your Candidate


AGNI had organised a "Meet Your Candidate" session @ Bandra last Saturday for the Mumbai North Central Constituency with candidates from all the contesting parties agreeing to a dialogue with the citizenry of the constituency.I got an invite to the meet via CRY.CRY was there to present the charter of demands pertaining to child rights to the would-be netas.I reached there much before the stipulated time only to find that I was at the wrong venue. The venue was Apostolic Carmel High School on Hill Road. I hastily reached there and the audience was in abundance with mostly Christians around since they constitute a majority here. This can be attributed to the Portuguese invasion of Bombay which resulted in the Portuguese handing over the territories of Bandra, Wadala, Sion, Parel to the Jesuit priests.

As is usual, the meeting started at 6 pm "Indian" Standard Time. But still a couple of candidates out of a total of four were stuck in the chaos of the Mumbai traffic or so we were told.

The dialogue commenced with two candidates namely Mr. Mahesh Jethmalani , lawyer and son of Mr. Ram Jethmalani , from BJP and his Congress counterpart Ms. Priya Dutt from Congress. They gave an introduction of their agenda regarding the upcoming elections. While Priya promised better healthcare, better standard of living to the residents ; Mahesh's pitch revolved around making available the promised funds for making Mumbai an international financial centre , betterment of Dharavi slums , the Metro Rail Project and the cleanup and development of the much talked about Mithi River.There was a three member panel from Agni to ask questions pertaining to various civic issues like the Nagar Raj Bill , the usage of MPLAD funds , Mumbai police reforms , global warming , education , healthcare among others.


For starters , the Nagar Raj Bill aims to accomplish the objectives that the Panchayat Raj system - the third revolution in India after the Green and the White one - set out to achieve ; that of devolution of power and responsibility to the aam aadmi at the grass root level.It aims to divide each municipal ward into several "Areas" , each consisting of about 3000 voters.The voting population of an area would be called an Area Sabha with some powers.So basically , the Area Sabha would be the urban counterpart of the existing concept of a Gram Sabha (remember civics anyone ?).But owing to some ill amendments from the Maharashtra Govt. , the proposed bill stands as it is.Hence , it has turned into political fodder for all parties alike.Both Priya and Mahesh agreed to get the bill passed in its primitive form.

Since the other two candidates could not make it to the meet , the battle was between the BJP and the Congress ; probably an indication of things to come in the Parliament with most of the BJP / Cong leaders just brushing aside the concept of the so-called Third Front.Most people think that the Third Front will come third. The issue of police reforms is in vogue in these elections courtesy the terrorist attacks in Mumbai last November.The strength of the Mumbai police force stands at 41,914 out of which 12803 personnel work their asses off securing our esteemed politicians , creme-de-la-creme of the bureaucracy , bollywood personalities and other some other individuals.All this of course from the taxpayer's rupee.So what would our netas do to give the aam aadmi better security ? Priya Dutt said that she herself does not travel with any security and she does not think that politicians and others should use the security at their own cost.Mahesh shared her thoughts but neither of them gave a concrete answer regarding a termination to such issue.

The BJP has found a new agenda this time around in the name of "black money".Mahesh very strongly echoed the party's prime ministerial candidate Mr. L.K.Advani's thought that the trillions of dollars that have been stashed away in Swiss bank accounts need to be brought back and employed towards the betterment of the poor here.While all this is being said , the Congress high command has dubbed the figures produced as "fake" and the entire incident as a "hoax".As a matter of fact even high profile columnists have also dismissed the figures that Mr.Advani has been singing about as incorrect, to say the least.

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May be , the BJP in its bid to find a concrete agenda to contest polls has found it in the construction of the Ram Temple at Ayodhya and the return of "black money".The Hindutva-vani is back and the campaign against swiss bank accounts has for the first time being made into a national agenda.It would be interesting to see how many of the BJP politicos find their bank accounts being probed into and seeing their wares being made public , that is if Mr.Advani manages to pull this thing off.Similar cries have been made in the US of late with the US govt asking UBS to furnish the details of American "secret" accounts.It has been sucessful only to a small extent though since the Swiss banks have the backing of their govt. on this issue of secrecy.If the US with its political and economic clout can manage only a meagre success , the extent of India's pursuit can only be determined in due course of time.

At some point of time in the meeting, while answering a question on the security of minorities , Mahesh made a mention of the communal violence in Orissa and in his true legal fashion tried to clear BJP of the blame. He managed to offend a whole lot of Christians by his remarks. They accused that both Kerala and Orissa - the states where the issues of communal violence between Hindus and Christians and that of religious conversions were prominent - were BJP ruled states.Temperatures rose and the police had to intervene to ward off a certain man who was furious about the conversions issue.

During the course of the meeting, Priya I thought didn't sound confident on almost all issues. Mahesh , on the other hand , the lawyer that he is , provided a better insight on all issues.But the good old saying that we learnt in school "Actions speak louder than words" rings in our minds and let us see who delivers.As a testimony to all the promises that they made, AGNI made both of them sign a charter of demands that they would/should adhere to after the election episode is done and over with.

Contributing Writer: Jimit Shah  I have completed my engineering from Mumbai University and was working with Oracle Financial Services Ltd. for the past two years. But as fate would have it , I resigned from my job and am looking for a new one. A voracious reader spanning business, finance, politics, marketing, media & entertainment, I have developed a liking for writing of late. I write on my blog these days.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article above are purely those of the Contributing Writer.

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