Why Worli Koliwada expects no big catch from the Maharashtra elections

Nandana James Mumbai | Updated on October 19, 2019 Published on October 19, 2019

Yuva Sena chief Aaditya Thackeray, the Shiv Sena’s candidate from Worli, starts his campaign from Worli Koliwada   -  Emmanual Yogini

Nothing has changed over the years, rue most residents of this South Mumbai fishermen colony that remains a Shiv Sena bastion

Amid the smell of fish that perpetually permeates every nook and corner of Worli’s Koliwada, with its tiny, vividly painted cheek-by-jowl houses in shrinking lanes, 65-year-old Walikar* says with a shrug: “I have only voted for the Shiv Sena, regardless of whether they do any work or not. From my childhood, I have only ever followed them.” This seems to resonate across Worli Koliwada, as it goes to polls on Monday.

An urban village largely populated by the Kolis, or fisherfolk, this Koliwada forms a part of the Worli constituency in Mumbai that will be one of the most closely watched in the hustings. It is from this constituency that the Shiv Sena is fielding the first member from its founding Thackeray family to directly contest an election in its 53 years in politics. 29-year-old Aditya Thackeray, grandson of the Marathi chauvinist party’s founder Bal Thackeray will be locking horns with the Nationalist Congress Party’s Suresh Mane in Worli. Like others BusinessLine spoke with, Walikar says Koliwada is a Shiv Sena stronghold. Even as he lambasts the false promises the pary makes during elections, and disses the party’s manifesto promise of a nutritious meal for Rs 10 (“you don’t get a vada paav for ₹10, so how will you get a thaali for ₹10”), he also points out that “Aditya Thackeray will win 101 per cent because there is no opposition, as in a credible opponent for Aditya Thackeray.”

The Shiv Sena has won five consecutive times in Worli, from 1990 to 2004. In 2009, NCP’s Sachin Ahir defeated Sena’s Ashish Chemburkar but Sena won back the seat in 2014. Ahir joined the Sena recently, points out Walikar to drive home his point.

52-year-old Simon Kinny also laments the hollow promises made by political parties when elections come around. Both Walikar and Kinny point out how the narrow, shrinking roads of Worli Koliwada need serious development, the recurrent waterlogging during monsoons. Kinny dwells at length about how medical facilities and medicines need to be made available to them at reasonable rates. He flays the development projects undertaken by political parties at the expense of the environment, citing the recent instance of the felling of trees at Aarey.

Walikar chimes in to say the fishing community in Worli Koliwada has been bearing the brunt of the construction of the Bandra-Worli Sea Link.

Anant*, a young government employee, who stays in one of the small houses typical of Worli Koliwada, also denigrates the lack of development in their Koliwada, as well as how fishing, the main source of income, has been under threat ever since the Sea Link came up. His wife, a fisherwoman, exclaims, “Ever since the Sea Link came up, there has been no fish at all.”

Tapping the peeling walls of his home, Anant explains, “Even this sound will disturb the fish and affect fishing. With the rumble of the vehicles overhead... they are not able to do fishing like they used to before the Sea Link came up.” If such developments are to happen, the least they can do is to ensure that the affected Koli community gets jobs at the toll booths on the Sea Link, Anant says wryly. Earlier, they used to, but now even those jobs have gone to outsiders, he says.

Like Walikar and Kinny, he also gestures to the narrow lanes, and points out that even an ambulance can’t make its way through. A subsidy on diesel that powers the fishing community’s boats, provision of proper toilets at the boat jetty, reliable availability of electricity and water, as well as provision of caste certificates to the Koli community so that they can get reservation benefits for higher studies are some of the key issues affecting the Worli Koliwada residents and need immediate redress, he explains.

Even a staunch Shiv Sena supporter like the 46-year-old Narang, who says that 80 per cent of Worli Koliwada supports the Sena, rues that “They have been talking about development and development for the past 25 years, but there has been no improvement in our Koliwada. In 25 years, not even a development worth 25 paise has happened,” he says.

But Narang is also of the opinion Worli Koliwada also does not need big developments. The construction of high-rise buildings will also cause rent rates to shoot up, he says. “Koliwada should be like a Koliwada,” he says, pointing to the small buildings behind him that are dwarfed by the skyscrapers yonder.

Not everyone agrees, though. 69-year-old Ramchandra Mankar, who sits by his small vegetable stall reading a newspaper, laments the waterlogging during monsoon, the dearth of proper drainage, and the crowded, narrow roads that can take barely a few vehicles. But he, like others, also points out “how there is no Opposition” and that he has always voted for the Sena as he leans towards the BJP’s policies.

Anant feels that a young political figure like Aditya Thackeray is definitely good news and is happy to support him, but feels that the problems of Worli Koliwada may not easily reach the ears of the young Thackeray ensconced in high security Bandra home. “Even if we go there with some issues, we will be swamped with ten questions about why we are visiting and all that. He may also come here, but then how much time will he spend?”

“We want someone who will be here for us always, and who will give us time. Even if he deputes ten people who can listen to our issues on his behalf and answers our calls and pays heed to our issues, that will be enough,” he continues. Many others say they will vote for the Sena, but with no particular reason for their preference. Almost all of them, like the Sena supporters themselves, really do not much from the elections and are quite disenchanted with the tall claims of political parties.

Sitting at her tine vegetable stall, 75-year-old Shanti Chaturvedi says she will go out to vote, but will be arbitrarily pressing any button on the voting machine. A young woman next to her explains this seemingly outlandish act: “Despite all the governments that have come and gone, at her age, she is selling these vegetables. No matter whom she votes for, what benefit will it bring her?”

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Published on October 19, 2019
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