Mumbai: Now, MNS engine powered by north Indians
Dinesh is one of three north Indian labourers hired by the MNS to pull the party’s campaign chariot for candidate Swapna Deshpande. Pic/Suresh Karkera
Who’d have thought the day would come when the MNS would turn to north Indians to power its engine?
After years of using its political muscle to target north Indians, accusing them of snatching jobs from the Marathi manoos, the party is now relying on north Indian muscle to pull its campaign chariot in Dadar and Shivaji Park.
MNS has been in the dumps due to shrinking support in the last few years. In order to wow the voters, the party is using a campaign chariot built to look like a train engine - the party’s election symbol. But more interestingly, the three labourers hired to pull the chariot - Ramu, Dinesh and Suraj - all hail from Uttar Pradesh.
Since February 3, they have been pulling the MNS chariot, campaigning for the party’s candidate for ward number 191 (Dadar), Swapna Deshpande.
Apart from campaign work, the trio also work as loaders in vegetable markets, and reside in Matunga. When this reporter asked them what they thought of MNS’ ideology, they said it does not affect them as they are here for work, and as long as they are paid, they have no problem.
In for the money
“All of three pull the chariot one by one in the morning and evening. Since I came to Mumbai only last year, I don’t know about the party’s past actions against our community. But we are not facing any problem; apart from paying us Rs 500 daily, they also provide food,” said Suraj.
His partner, Ramu, said, “The party has been taking care of all our needs since we started the campaign for them. We came to Mumbai to work, so that our families in our native place can have a better life. If we start refusing work on the basis of the party’s ideology, then it will become difficult to earn money.”
MNS claims that while it was not a conscious decision to hire north Indians for the job, the party is not against the community. “We had appointed an agency to hire the people and they provided the labourers, regardless of their caste or where they are from. We are not against any particular community, as long as Mumbai’s sons of soil are given a priority - there should be reservation for Maharashtrians,” said Swapna’s husband Sandip Deshpande, the sitting corporator in the ward.
However, the MNS does seem to be shedding its earlier stance against ‘outsiders’ - much like the BJP and Sena are trying to break their image of Gujarati and Marathi-centric parties to gain more seats in the BMC. This year, MNS has also given tickets to few north Indian candidates to contest the election.decided to enter the fray after the ward was reserved for women after the delimitation of wards. She was in government service earlier, and she quit her job to contest the BMC elections, with the intention of taking her husband’s place. She will face a tough fight against Shiv Sena candidate and former mayor Vishakha Raut.
As it is, MNS is facing a tough time, as most of its sitting corporators quit the party. Now, the party is fighting to retain its citadel in Dadar, while the Sena is trying to regain the Dadar-Mahim belt it lost to seven MNS corporators in 2012.