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Tuesday, March 06, 2012

IN a scathing little article titled ‘Gluttons for Punishment’, the much respected magazine The Economist, does an acid little number on this city. And it is no more than we deserve. Read on:

“Nothing can stop Mumbai’s manic rhythm, but elections come close. In the run-up to a ballot on the city council, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), on February 16, grog was banned, political rallies filled the days and, if you believe one voter in a middle-class area, men drove around with bags of cash to bribe voters in the dead of night.

“The BMC, which supposedly runs the city, although there is scant evidence of that, has an annual budge of $4 billion and is a byword for graft. On election day in Gandhinagar, a slum in the north, it seemed easy to detect a backlash. Kamble,  a gardener, said he would vote for “the least corrupt politician”. The owner of a roadside stall flaunted his forefinger stained with election ink and shouted about every vote counting.

“Yet the talk did not translate into action. An alliance between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the country’s main opposition, and local right-wing bruisers, Shiv Sena, won its fourth consecutive term, bagging 106 of the 227 seats. With the help of some smaller parties that should secure it a majority. The other lot, the Congress party, with its main ally, won a dire 65 seats.

“One explanation is that people are too fed up to vote – turnout was a mere 46 per cent. The poll itself may be bent – a woman in Gandhinagar says pots and pans were doled out there to win hearts and minds. But Shiv Sena has the popular touch in much of the city, and when it comes to graft, Congress is no party of angels either. One Mumbaikar says that, when the monsoon floods the ill-repaired streets, at least Shiv Sena’s bigwigs roll up and sleeves and help. “Can we expect that from the Congress?” he asks.”

Perhaps not. But there are plenty of wards in the city that are reporting that their Shiv Sena corporators have already gotten on the job, visiting their constituencies area by area, taking note of what needs to be done, and actually doing it. Versova’s Ward 56 is one of them, and this comes from someone who did not even vote for the party.

Who knows, this might be the Shiv Sena’s best five-year stretch yet, in terms of how much they actually do for the city. As for graft, that is not going to end anytime soon. This is India after all, where corruption is endemic and very much a part of culture itself.

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