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Poll date: 24 April

Mumbai South

Key candidates: Milind Deora, INC I Meera Sanyal, AAP I Arvind Sawant, Shiv Sena

Come elections and 67-year old Mumbai-based Kisan Renuke’s mind goes back many years. Born in the same year as India got its independence, 1947, Renuke has seen Mumbai (the city in which he was born and grew up) transform into the megalopolis it is right now. His own home, which was once in a slum in central Mumbai—an area dominated by textile mills from the 1960s to the 1980s—is now on the top floor of an eight-storey building. In 2005, a builder redeveloped the slum land to accommodate a 40-storey commercial building, a transaction where Renuke claims his cluster got “a lot of help in negotiating" from the Shiv Sena.

“Even before the redevelopment, the Shiv Sena had helped our slum cluster to get electricity, water supply and access to toilets," he says. Throughout the years, Renuke claims to have stuck with Sena candidates, as he will this time too by voting for Arvind Sawant.

But change is imminent. Six kilometres away at Peddar Road, 29-year old Vishad Shanghvi, a first-time voter, has been swept off his feet by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). In fact, he says it was AAP’s emergence as a political party that motivated him to get his election card earlier this year. “To me, AAP is a symbol of hope that’s trying to solve the root causes of most of our country’s problems like corruption, bad governance and institutional sloth."

Renuke and Shanghvi represent the two extreme ends—one a legacy voter who has stayed loyal to a political ideology, and the other who is looking for a drastic change at the top. The Mumbai South constituency consists of six assembly segments and is as cosmopolitan as it can get; from the swamplands of Sewri and Mumbadevi—a bastion of the trader community—to the Muslim-dominated area of Byculla, the Marathi-speaking voter dominated Worli area and the upmarket Colaba and Malabar Hill areas. The constituency has about 1.5-1.6 million registered voters.

But can such a diverse set of needs be addressed by a single candidate?

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Meera Sanyal at Adarsh Nagar, Worli. Photo: Kayezad Adjania/Mint

Deora is mindful of this. “I think people will differentiate me from their perceptions about the United Progressive Alliance 2 government that they may have, if the latter is unfavourable," he says. Apart from helping the Maharashtra government to set up India’s first housing sector regulator (to be launched in June), Deora claims to have fought for curbs on mobile tower radiation and spoken against the ordinance that, if passed, would have allowed convicted politicians to continue being in politics. He was, in fact, one of the first voices of dissent in his own party on the issue last year.

To bridge the gap between local aspirations and the candidate’s presence in Delhi, AAP has a plan to attract local talent. Meera Sanyal, its Mumbai South candidate, says the party plans to recruit at least one or two leaders who can represent each of the 1,546 poll booths in South Mumbai. “I obviously can’t reach the whole constituency but my booth representatives will go door-to-door with their team, listen to the voter’s concerns, complaints and bring back feedback. Ultimately, these leaders will go to represent AAP when we fight Maharashtra’s legislative assembly elections (scheduled to take place later this year) and then the corporation elections," says Sanyal, while campaigning at Worli’s Adarsh Nagar area and Koliwada slums. “But that does not mean that the MP is completely divorced from the issues of the constituency just because she or he sits in the Lok Sabha in Delhi. So AAP’s two-tier structure helps in our voters being in touch with our booth chiefs, the chiefs themselves are in constant touch with me," she adds.

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While Sanyal to an extent, and regional parties like the Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (which has Bala Nandgaonkar), may have a Mumbai-centric agenda, Deora feels his party has greater social acceptability at the Centre, and can bring about economic stability. “There is a reason why the Congress has come to power so many times in India’s independence history," he said in a debate with Shiv Sena rival Arvind Sawant, organized by BSE Ltd’s Brokers Forum on 28 March.

While the BJP’s Narendra Modi, the Sena coalition’s main candidate, flexes his muscles across India, the Sena, like AAP, promises to look into the perennial problem of dilapidated chawls and their redevelopment, especially in Mumbai South.

Follow our special coverage of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls on Flipboard.

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