A late afternoon shaft of sunlight tip-toes silently on cat paws casting holograms of shadows of trees on the porch below where women of every age fan themselves keeping at bay the thick heat. In a voice that has started rasping, activist Medha Patkar draped in a cotton sari speaks to women in a tone which is neither pleading nor patronising.
Ask her about lack of media space or exposure, the graduate from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences says, “I am not bothered about the subliminal hum of hysterics of established political parties jangling every television sets tuned into news channels. It is like any other ‘Andolan’ for me.”
While Patkar admits she is keen to see herself win, she says that it would have been better if she had contested municipal elections, “just beyond this complex…smoke and fumes and dust just envelopes your lungs...go to Govandi (a far-flung North-Eastern suburb) you will notice people in swanky cars rolling up their windows and switch on chemical aroma to keep out the stench…they forget that thousands of people live and breathe this very air because the aroma producing companies vomit out this stench, sludge and fumes. An honest corporator can certainly do wonders by serving at grass-root level.”
The constituency which was once defamed as ‘a den of underworld goons’ has a sharp and varied urban-scape ranging from ghettoes to old Gujarati townships to garish high-cost buildings. The constituency has mostly remained loyal to the Congress and the NCP.
This time most Mumbai constituencies is witnessing a clash of personalities but in the North-East it is a battle of ideologies. Patkar’s entry has sent shivers in the sitting NCP MP Sanjay Patil camp. BJP’s Kirit Somaiya who manages to remain in news by churning out ‘a-week-a-scam’ that fizzle out like a soda-water bottle, is relying heavily on his media friends.