While most of the political leaders have upped efforts to keep their parties and agendas relevant in the fast-paced, vibrant and vivacious `aamchi' Mumbai, it seems that it is actually the younger lot that is driving the point across to the electorate these civic elections.
Dispelling the popular impression that young citizens are indifferent to elections, many fresh-from-college volunteers, BPO employees, MBA mandarins and executives can be seen working for various parties and rubbing shoulders with school dropouts and slum dwellers, seeking votes from `tai', `kaka' and `bhidus'. The BMC polls are scheduled for February 21.
For instance, the 50-year-old Shiv Sena, who's patriarch Bal Thackeray stirred the imagination of the city's angry and jobless Marathis in the 1970s with his anti-establishment cartoons, has come to bank on Aaditya Thackeray as its modern, suave face. The nattily-dressed Yuva Sena chief heads a team that is choc-abloc with fresh faces like the soft-spoken pilot Abhijit Adsul and actor Aadesh Bandekar, among others.
“I am in the Sena chiefly because of Aaditya-ji. I like the way he takes up issues close to Mumbai's heart,“ said youngster Omkar Lad from Dahisar. “It's nice to work for a party that has a young leader,“ added the MBA student who campaigns for Sheetal Mukesh Mhatre, a Sena candidate from ward number 7 in Dahisar.
Seated next to Lad was Siddesh Dhavalikar, the 20-something Sainik scribbling slogans on his mobile to be messaged to the ward's young voters. It is little wonder that Sena president Uddhav Thackeray has revamped his team. Veterans such as Manohar Joshi and Liladhar Dake have taken a backseat to make way for relatively young functionaries such as Anil Parab and Anil Desai--the latter known as Mr Ageless, notwithstanding his salt-and-pepper mop. The BJP too is all set to shed its flab and acquire a come-hither look to take on the Sena. “For long, the Mumbai BJP had to make do with middle-aged workers, mostly from the mercantile community. They all looked well-fed--a rotund frame and the `paan-parag' chewing types. This was in sharp contrast with the lean, mean look of a Shiv Sainik. However, this time around, Mumbai BJP chief Ashish Shelar made it a point to hand-pick young workers to handle the poll machinery, “ said a BJP functionary.
For instance, Niranjan Shetty , a res taurateur-turned-politico may be 40, but his colleagues at Vasant Smriti, the Mumbai BJP headquarters, say he brims with the energy of a rugby player.
The BJP has projected CM Devendra Fadnavis as the party's poster-boy for the Mumbai civic polls. “Devendra-ji is young and has an array of ideas to take Mumbai on the path of development. I am much impressed with his makeover plan for Mumbai like the Metro, Wi-Fi connectivity across the city and the trans-harbour link project,“ said Satish Tiwari, secretary, the BJP's Sewri unit.
Not to be outdone, the Mumbai Cong ress too is tapping the young quotient.The party is gaining a measure of comfort from the fact that Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has come into his own in Uttar Pradesh after inking a poll pact with Samajwadi Party .
Young workers are quite upbeat following Gandhi's retort to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's `raincoat' jibe at former PM Manmohan Singh, said a Congress functionary. Gandhi had said Modi likes to peep into people's bathrooms, but has done very little for the welfare of the poor.
“You will soon find Rahulji take on Modi in a big way. Just wait for the UP poll results.Rahul-ji and Akhilesh-ji will sweep the elections,“ declared Dhananjay Khatpe, a Congress activist from Prabhadevi. The son of a textile mill worker, Khatpe keeps close contacts with youngsters as head of the Mumbai Congress' employment cell.
Raj Thackeray's MNS may be passing through a rough patch but his charisma strikes a chord among his green-behindthe-ears followers. Said Karan Menon, “Rajsaheb speaks straight from the heart and his appeal is aimed at young citizens. He has his finger on the pulse of the GenNext.“ Menon (27) handles the poll apparatus in ward number 14 for party nominee Nisha Gujar.
Politicians too are keeping the youngsters in good books. “Young students are smart, and have a flair for catchy one-liners. They are best to handle the social media,“ said Congress activist Amit Naik.