On January 22ndth ,2012, Lok Raj Sanghathan called a public meeting at 8 pm for the residents of Worli BDD chawls to select their own people’s candidates for the coming Municipal Council Elections. The Elections were scheduled for February 16th. The Mumbai Municipal Corporation is the richest corporation in the country. Its annual budget is even larger than some of the smaller States annual budget.
Worli BDD chawls was built by the British in 1928. It has nearly 10,000 houses in 121 buildings each of three storeys and each having 80 houses. Each house measures 160 sq feet and is occupied by industrial as well as unorganized workers and small traders and self employed people.
For the first time the entire Worli BDD chawls was allocated to one electoral ward and also was reserved as a women’s representative ward. So when Lok Raj Sangathan called a meeting of the residents of Worli BDD chawls on January 22nd it got an enthusiastic response. Nearly 50 people, mostly women, were present from 8 pm to 10 pm for the open air meeting, even though it was a chilly night and the next day was Makar Sankranti. Leaving all their household responsibilities they gathered to chalk out a plan for the coming elections. There were women from Maharashtrian, Gujarati and Telugu communities present. It was decided that any aspiring candidate had to fulfill certain criteria, namely, he or she should come to serve the people and not for selfish ends, he should be accountable to the people and always take decisions in consultation with them and the allocation of money would be as per the people’s directions. After this several residents came forward to propose Smt. Sakshi, who had been active in the struggle for ration in Worli BDD. Her candidature was received unanimously by everybody.
After the nomination was filed and all the tedious bureaucratic work was passed through, the campaign got off on February 3rd and went on every day till February 13th. Every night from 10-20 local women and men would go floor to floor and hold floor meetings in the buildings. Through these meetings they discussed with the local people about the existing political process and the need to change it in favour of the working people. They also asked for monetary support.
This was in stark contrast to the campaigns of other political parties especially the three “main” parties, none of whom dared to engage in one to one discussions with the electorate, but instead made a lot of noise and were distributing monies freely.
Lok Raj Sangathan was only one of two who dared to organize a public meeting in the vitiated election atmosphere on February 12th 2012. The meeting was attended by nearly a hundred women and men belonging to the Telugu, Gujarathi and Maharashtrian Communities. The meeting started at 8 pm and went on till 10 pm and none of the members of the audience left.
The meeting was chaired by Comrade Mathew, Convenor of Lok Raj Sangathan, Mumbai and Comrade Kusum, Convenor of Lok Raj Sangathan, Worli. The meeting was addressed by Comrade Sakshi Jalgaonkar, Peoples Candidate from Worli. Also addressed by Comrade Bharadwaj, National Vice President of All India Loc Running Staff Association (AILRSA) and Com Chetri, Treasurer, Air India Aircraft Engineers Association (AIAEA). Several local activists of Lok Raj Sangathan also spoke.
Comrade Mathew said that we the people are seen as mere voting cattle to be used by the established political parties to come to power. We have no say in choosing the candidates nor are these parties accountable to the voters. However he saluted the residents of Worli who had dared to challenge this and selected their own people’s candidate. Through the existing process the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. He told the residents that just look around you and see the huge towers coming up all around you. The wealth in a few hands has enabled them to build houses that reach for the skies while we working people are threatened of eviction from our own houses in the name of beautifying Mumbai. We need a new political process which will enable us to ensure that the needs of the majority of people are met. We need t o become the ruling class. What is being done by the Worli people is the seeds of this new.
Comrade Sakshi said that in India, the rich are ruling. We need people’s rule. This can come about if we unite as one. The people’s condition is deteriorating. We are forced to work on contract. There is no security for our women. She said that you have selected me as your candidate and if I do not serve you, you have every right to punish me and remove me.
Comrade Kusum said that we have learnt through struggle that if e are untied we can achieve improvement in the quality of our lives. She said that wherever the women have united they had got increased quality of rations. Similarly, now the big builders want to throw us out of BDD and build towers and we need to be ready to protect our homes.
Comrade Gurram, veteran local activist said proudly that for the last 10 days activists of Lok Raj Sangathan had been moving from building to building selflessly spreading the message of unity. What a stark contrast this was to the campaigns of the other political parties, where activists were bought with money and they only spread noise pollution and division of the people. Lok Raj Sangathan was for building the unity of the people and for the rule of the working people.
Comrade Bharadwaj of AILRSA lambasted the existing process and called it a fraud where political parties fool the people with promises which are never kept. He called on the people to support the new process initiated by Lok Raj Sangathan.
Comrade Chetri of AIAEA said that his organization was working with Lok Raj Sangathan to build the unity of all working peoples. HE hailed the initiative of Lok Raj Sangathan and called on the local residents to support this.
The meeting ended at 10 pm.
After the election results were announced on February 17th, all the local activists of Lok Raj Sangathan who had participated in the election campaign gathered in Worli, on February 19th to sum up the whole campaign and plan the way forward. The mood was highly optimistic. All the members who had participated in the campaign had grown in confidence and stature. It was decided to step up the work of taking up the problems of the people and organising them.