Financial constraints have forced the dabbawalas to turn to the saffron party for tickets to contest upcoming civic polls; many Sainiks disgruntled about dwindling number of seats left for them
They are unmatched in terms of punctuality, efficiency and managerial skills. But the city's dabbawalas, who are all set to give the city's corporators a run for their money when they contest the upcoming civic elections, have already met their fair share of hurdles, the first hiccup being a grinding financial crunch. Monetary constraints have forced the dabbawalas to abandon their original plans of contesting independently, and decide to contest under the Shiv Sena banner instead, much to the disgruntlement of some party insiders.
"We want to use our leadership and administrative qualities for the betterment of the city, and decided to contest the forthcoming BMC elections. In order to contest an election, one has to be financially sound, but we are anything but wealthy. Hum dil se ameer hai, par jeb se fakir (we are rich of heart, but have pockets of paupers)," said Raghunath Medge, leader of the Dabbawala Sangathana. Left with no other alternative, they had to approach a political party for the monetary scaffolding; they chose to contest the BMC elections from under the Shiv Sena banner. "We turned to the party that has been crusading for the Marathi cause. They have assured us they will give us tickets," added Medge.
Rahul Shewale, Shiv Sena's senior party councillor and BMC's standing committee chairperson, confirmed that the dabbawalas had approached the party. "Their representatives had visited the Sena Bhavan and the party is ready to give them a seat. We are yet to decide the candidates, and the wards and from which they will contest," said Shewale.
The dabbawalas are also concerned about the fact that the legions of over 5,000 dabbawalas are not concentrated in a particular pocket of the city, but scattered across its length and breadth. "All of us are spread across different wards. We have a history of nearly 125 years in the city, and want to address certain problems, such as parking, and our roti, kapdaa and makaan," said Medge.
There are also reports that news of this development has polarised party insiders in the Sena. 50 per cent of the BMC seats are reserved for female candidates. Moreover, the party is in an alliance with the BJP, and has freshly roped in the RPI as an ally. This has already reduced the number of seats earmarked exclusively for Sena candidates. " If more parties are brought into the fold, the party will be left with very few of its own members in the battlefield," said a leader.
Of the 227 total seats in BMC, 114 are reserved for women. Besides this, the saffron party will have to allot 26 seats to their new ally, the RPI. Moreover, the BJP has been assured 63 seats. This leaves the Sena with only 135 seats in total for female, reserved and general candidates.