MUMBAI: The Congress-NCP government did precious little to stop the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) from targeting North Indian migrants last year and even now they seem to be side-stepping the issue. At a poll rally in Subhash Nagar, MIDC, Andheri (E), on Monday evening, local Congress leaders preferred to talk about protecting hutments and providing them more water and better drainage.
They referred to the hate campaign against North Indians but blamed the Samajwadi Party for provoking the MNS. Speaker after speaker reminded the audience, largely poor migrants from the cow-belt, that Abu Asim Azmi of the SP had distributed lathis at the partys Shivaji Park rally in February last year after which the hate campaign of the MNS intensified. Incidentally, Azmi is contesting against Congress Gurudas Kamat here.
We have come to this city not to fight, but to earn money as conditions back home are bad. But they (Samajwadi Party) have pitted us (north Indians) against the locals (Maharashtrians), said
Kamlesh Mishra, a former Shiv Sena corporator from Andheri (E), now a Congress corporator.
Where the Congress leaders touched a chord with the audience is the issue of protecting their shanties from being demolished. They pointed out that most of the hutments were built after 1995, the cut-off date for slum protection and rehabilitation.
When a massive slum demolition drive was launched by the state government, all Congress MLAs and Kamat had met Sonia Gandhi and ensured a stop to the demolition. We want all slums up to 2000 to be protected, said Kripashankar Singh, Mumbai Regional Congress Committee president.
What they did not mention was the fact that their own government had ordered the demolitions.
Subhash Nagar is home to 5,000 families, the majority are from UP and Bihar. Most families are dependant on earnings from autorickshaws and hawking.
Local MLA and minister for medical education Suresh Shetty emphasised his accessibility and the fact that he along with the partys eight corporators are available to resolve issues of water, road and drains.
Gurudas Kamat had the last word. Everywhere I go, people talk about water shortage. We revived the Middle Vaitarna project and it will be ready in the next two years. It will solve the citys water problem for the next 20 years, he said.