I have nothing against people who ring my doorbell and chat for two seconds to bag my vote. Iâmind that nothing really changes in my city
NCP corporator Nazib Mulla celebrates his win in the civic elections in Thane, on Thursday. He is an accused in builder Suraj Parmar’s sucide case. Pic/PTI
All kinds of strangers dropped by my apartment over the last two weeks to say hello. One of them stood outside my door, bowed, and requested that I vote for her. I didn't quite catch her name, but a few rough-looking men, who had turned up with her, helpfully thrust in my direction a pamphlet with all the required information and a short note on what her election symbol looks like. It didn't say anything about why I ought to vote for her, nor did it offer any insight on what she intended to do if most people in my locality voted her to power. I was left with no option but to bow back and shut the door.
Some people thrust an eight-page magazine down my letterbox. The magazine was chock-full of reports and numbers I couldn't understand. At least four pages were devoted to names of various people, accompanied by their mug shots. To me, they all looked the same, and were all presumably photographed by a man who must have convinced them to go for the classic 'deer-caught-in-the-headlights' look.
The gist of the magazine was that someone, somewhere, had done a whole lot of good things for the people of my locality. I was supposed to return the favour by promptly voting a certain gentleman or woman to power, so that more good things could be done for me and my neighbours. The projects shown in the magazine didn't remotely resemble anything in my locality. I was suspicious for a few seconds, but that feeling quickly passed because my doorbell rang again.
This time, it wasn't a candidate. It was one of the candidate's minions, thrusting yet another pamphlet at me and asking me to vote. The candidate in question was a woman who had reportedly earned an MBA in the UK. It didn't say what kind of MBA or where in the UK, but that was the only thing printed in English. So, it's all I had to be suitably impressed by. What I found interesting, however, was that the candidate's first name was followed by her father's entire name.
Her father had supposedly been a corporator in my locality a while ago, and was requesting me and my neighbours to vote for his daughter because, presumably, she would be as competent or incompetent as he had been on account of genetics. A large photograph of him smiling took up more space on the pamphlet than the photograph of his daughter. And there was the reply to my incredulous "why": I was to vote because the candidate's father had been a corporator.
Smaller groups of people passed by my building singing, chanting or playing recorded messages asking us all to vote for some party or the other. The messages were all uniformly awful, written by people who had obviously struggled through school and had, therefore, been forced to write awful slogans for a living. These smaller groups didn't bother ringing my doorbell, because they weren't interested in my vote. The only votes they were interested in were from the people living illegally in my locality — whom they had propped up for years just so they could be repaid by an assured seat at the BMC table.
I have nothing against these people. I was pleased that they rang my doorbell and chatted, if only for exactly two seconds each, because they must have been told that saying "hello" to people in any constituency is a good way of making sure that those people will give you their vote. They had no plans, no insights to offer, no signs of intelligence and no record of doing anything positive for my locality, but here they were anyway, running for elections at the BMC because most of them were too incompetent to do an actual job that involved making an actual effort for a living.
They didn't want to make things better for my city. Indeed, going by how some of them had been in power for years, it was clear that they had no idea how to. By the time this column appears, the results will have been declared. There will be more raucous parades through the streets, more chants and singing, more illegal hoardings congratulating some man or woman I have never met and may never meet again until the next election. I won't know what this man or woman has been elected to do, because nothing around me will change. And that, for someone living in the shadow of India's richest municipality, is the tragedy.
When he isn't ranting about all things Mumbai, Lindsay Pereira can be almost sweet. He tweets @lindsaypereira Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org