Politicians in the city seem to be the very poster boys for piety, with their faces gracing huge posters and hoardings during religious festivals every year. However, the BMC’s ban on political posters this year seems to have brought their festive fervour down several notches not guaranteed the publicity that their donations will generate in the form of posters and banners, they have decided not to cough up the cash to many of the mandals they would earlier patronise.
Bearing the brunt of this sudden tightening of purse strings are the smaller mandals in the city, who rely largely on politicians for funds every year. This year, the civic agency has been cracking down on posters and banners that hitherto lined every nook and corner of the city. After the mayor’s intervention, the banners were made permissible only during Dahi Handi, Ganeshotsav and Navratri, but there is citywide ban on political banners.
This ban has made matters difficult for the smaller mandals, almost 40 to 50 per cent of which are funded by local politicians or corporators who need publicity. Losing the patronage of sundry shakha pramukhs, vibhag pramukhs, corporators and MLAs, these mandals are hard-pressed for funds to organise their celebrations, as they do not enjoy corporate sponsorship. Each of the smaller mandals organise their festivities with Rs 40,000-80,000 from politicians, but the sudden dip in their generosity has forced mandal members out on the streets in droves, knocking on doors and ringing doorbells for collections from nearby areas but the collections are meager, they claim.
High and dry
One such mandal hit by paucity of funds this year is the Shakti Nagar Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Mandal, which hosts bappa for seven days in Andheri every year. Sachin Khamkar, a member of the mandal, said, “Our revenues have been affected greatly as we used to get 40 per cent of it from local politicians. But of late, we have been denied of sponsorships and big donations.
When asked, the politicians asked why they should pay without getting publicity in return. As a mandal, we cannot go against the BMC and put up political banners. We had to accept the small donation that we got. Our mandal manages the festival with Rs 75,000. This year we have managed to collect only Rs 50,000 and we are falling short by Rs 25,000. We plan to collect money from various shops in our locality, as there is no other option left.”
Chetan Rajesawant, treasurer for Kamgar Nagar Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Mandal at Seven Bungalows, said, “About 30 per cent of our mandal’s revenue comes from politicians, so the ban of political banners has affected us severely. We did not get good donations from the local representatives. However we have used some contacts to get discounts on the idol, which has saved us a little. With just a few days left to go for the festival, we hope that we can reach the target.”
Damodar Parankusham, a member of Balmitra Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav mandal on Bhavani Shankar Road, said, “There is a lack of interest from politicians this year. Earlier they used to be enthusiastic to sponsor proceedings. Since we are based in Dadar, we caught the interest of many politicians. This year, whoever we went to turned us away, saying that they would not profit. We have suffered a loss of almost 30 per cent as we could hardly collect Rs 20,000 from various politicians. Till last year, we were able to collect at least Rs 45,000.”
Local politicians admitted to having cut back on donations this year, but attributed it to causes other than the ban on banners. Ameet Satam, a corporator in the Juhu area, said, “I have stopped entertaining mandals for donations as they behave like extortionists.” Shiv Sena leader in Kurla Ajay Badgujar, who would donate to almost 300 mandals, said, “This year I will be putting in money at fewer mandals, and only those which are located in the area.”