Dabbawalas take a U-turn

Published: Dec 18, 2011, 09:11 IST | Varun Singh |

Days after MiD DAY reported dabbawalas' plans to contest BMC polls on Shiv Sena tickets, union president says they're open to tickets from any party

Days after MiD DAY reported dabbawalas' plans to contest BMC polls on Shiv Sena tickets, union president says they're open to tickets from any party 
Last Tuesday, MiD DAY reported that the city's dabbawalas are planning to contest the upcoming BMC polls in February on Shiv Sena tickets due to financial constraints (Dabbawalas to ride on Shiv Sena ticket).

However, less than a week later, members of the dabbawala union are singing a different tune. Sources reveal that a majority section of the dabbawala union does not want to be associated with the Shiv Sena, or any other political party.

A dabbawala tableau at the Republic Day Parade. The tiffin carriers are
keen to contest the civic polls to find political representation in the city

 A dabbawala from the union who did not wish to be named told Sunday MiD DAY, "We are a neutral party and do not have any affiliation with a political party. The news that we have aligned with one particular party damages our union image."

Union members told this reporter that they are not even keen to contest the polls. "Our work is to serve the public, distribute food safely and efficiently. We do not have political dreams,"said a dabbawala, who wished to remain anonymous.

On Tuesday, MiD DAY quoted Raghunath Medge, a leader of the Dabbawala Union as saying, "We want to use our leadership and administrative qualities for the betterment of the city, and have 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. (...) We turned to the (Shiv Sena) 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," Shewale had told MiD DAY.

However, Yamunaji Ghole, president of the dabbawala union disagreed.
"We are not interested in contesting the elections. We are simple people and the Union is not associated with any political party. Our members belong to different parties including the NCP, Congress and Sena," he said.
There are 5,000 dabbawalas that cater to nearly two lakh people in Mumbai. According to Ghole, these dabbawalas are spread across the city and stay in far flung places like Mulund, Ghatkopar, Dahishar, Dadar, and Andheri.

In yet another twist in the tale, Ghole then told this reporter, "We may contest (the election) since it may help us, but it is not necessary that we will do so only on Shiv Sena tickets. It can be any party. The only criteria being that the ticket should of an area we want. Till now, none of the parties have given us any such assurance."

Ghole also said that the Shiv Sena had helped the dabbawalas in securing the luggage compartment in the local trains, but those dabbawalas are called the varkaris.

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