It may be a small matter of sending Christmas gifts to their minority constituents, but a lot rides on the gesture for Bandra’s political heavyweights, especially street cred
In the red corner is Baba Siddiqui, Bandra (West) legislator for several years. In the blue corner is Ashish Shelar, who wrested the minority-dominated constituency from Siddiqui in the assembly elections.
Ashish Shelar at a Christmas event last year
Soon after his win in October 2014, Shelar pipped Siddiqui’s again, gifting his Catholic constituents a CD of carols for Christmas. Siddiqui, who has been gifting his constituents for more than 15 years, was left looking a bit silly when he gave his constituents decorated candles.
Baba Siddique at the Christmas rally last year
This week, the two will be at it again. While Shelar told mid-day he will be gifting miniature Christmas trees to his constituents, Siddiqui, having learnt his lesson, is playing it close to his chest. He wouldn’t reveal what his gifts this year are going to be.
Whoever wins this round, mid-day can confirm that their constituents will be watching their moves closely. Alyssa Lobo who lives near Mount Mary steps said, “The CD and candles were not very useful. We can’t even find them. But it was a nice gesture from Shelar and Siddique. However, a few of my neighbours did not get one or the other and were very upset. The gifts don’t matter to me, but for a lot of people the gesture matters a lot.”
Bandra gets into the Christmas spirit as Hill Road is decked up. Pic/ Pradeep Dhivar
Revealing his cards, the confident Shelar said he is planning to gift miniature Christmas trees. He said: “There are many trying to create disturbances. Forgiveness is what is needed for the New Year. I will be putting 25
stars and lights all across Bandra to wish the Catholics for Christmas. It is a community festival and I am also organising two events in the coming days to spread the Christmas happiness. Families will be given a small Christmas tree and season greetings cards.”
Siddique only revealed that he is having his 16th annual Christmas Rally across Bandra from the western side of the station across Hill Road, Linking Road and Carter Road.
“I will be giving 10,000 gifts of toys to children and people in Bandra,” he said. “Santa Claus and a DJ will go around the area in a truck. Santa Claus is for everyone, from the slum dwellers to those who live in high rises. I am also putting up lights and stars.”
The rally from 4:30 pm to 9 pm will also see former MP Priya Dutt and Congress Block President Stephen Noronha join Siddique and Santa spreading the Christmas cheer in Bandra. About the gifts this year, Siddique said, “The party workers have not yet decided what has to be given.”
What’s their beef?
Some residents have strong opinions about this goodwill gesture from their elected netas. Erika Pinto who lives near Mount Carmel Church said, “The money used to buy the gifts for the rich can be used to help the less fortunate during Christmas. Majority of the Bandra Catholic families are middle or upper middle class. Shelar and Siddique can give the poor families a Christmas hamper rather than waste money on these useless gifts.”
Some demands from other constituents would really leave the BJP’s Shelar in a fix. Owen Fernandes, a resident of Pali Hill said, “More than these cards, candles and CDs, what would really be a good Christmas gift for me and my family is beef on our table after midnight mass. Beef roll is my favourite, but since cow meat is not available I cannot enjoy it.”
Are you listening, Mr Shelar? Or will you do the honours, Mr Siddiqui?
Gwen Vaz, a college student and resident of Linking Road
Maybe they could pack some rum chocolates and give that as a Christmas gift. My parents work and there is no time to make sweets, we either order them or buy chocolates. It would be good to get some yummy sweets, this season
Harold D'Silva, resident of Bazaar Road
The CD was so much better. The candles were very sad and useless. We use lights to light up the tree and our houses. I am looking forward to this year's gift. I don't care about the politics, but getting gifts from my MLA is a good feeling. Siddique isn't MLA anymore but it is thoughtful that he still continues to give us gifts.