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I am accessible to people, says Eknath Gaikwad

Monday, 3 March 2014 - 6:00am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA

Despite emerging as a "giant killer" of sorts by trouncing then Lok Sabha speaker Manohar Joshi of the Shiv Sena in 2004 and later defeating Suresh Gambhir (Shiv Sena) in the saffron stronghold in 2009, his opponents and constituents allege that Mumbai south central MP Eknath Gaikwad (Congress), has failed to address the pressing issues before him.

They claim that problems like lack of open spaces, poor railway infrastructure, delayed makeover of Asia's largest slum of Dharavi, which is incidentally Gaikwad's stronghold, and repairs and development of old and dilapidated buildings have been hanging fire, a charge however, denied by him.

"I am accessible to the people," said Gaikwad, an affable leader and one of the Dalit faces of the city Congress. "People do not doubt my intentions, they are happy at my work," said Gaikwad, who broke the recent jinx in the constituency about a candidate not being elected twice.

Gaikwad, who won in 2009 largely because of a vote-split induced by the Raj Thackeray-led MNS, added that he had been consistently taking up issues regarding the railways with the Centre.

The Lok Sabha constituency, which saw its name being changed to Mumbai south central in the delimitation exercise, comprises assembly segments like Anushakti Nagar, Chembur, Dharavi, Sion Koliwada, Wadala and Mahim, all of which are represented by MNS, Congress or NCP legislators.

While the Shiv Sena has fielded standing committee chairman Rahul Shewale, in the coming polls, in a decision which may not go down well with Joshi and his acolytes, the MNS may pit youth leader Aditya Shirodkar. The Congress is also said to be toying with the idea of replacing Gaikwad with another Dalit face -- former Mumbai university vice-chancellor and Rajya Sabha MP, Bhalchandra Mungekar.

"His public contact is low in Dadar (W) as his opponents have a strong base here," complained Prabhadevi resident Girish Dhoke, adding that on the other hand, Gaikwad had a significant outreach in Matunga labour camp and Dharavi, which is represented by his daughter Varsha, who is also a minister.

"Initially, he and Varshatai had worked well, but later their performance seems to have slipped," admitted academician and activist Pushpa Bhave, who is a trenchant critic of the Shiv Sena, stressing it was necessary for elected representatives to create a network of office bearers and activists to handle public grievances.

"The MP has not worked for the people," alleged former Shiv Sena MLA and local vibhag pramukh Sada Sarvankar, adding that Gaikwad's work was restricted to just erecting sheds in Dharavi. Sarvankar charged that Gaikwad has not focused on problems faced by the common man like poor railway infrastructure, repairs and reconstruction of old buildings and encroachment on government land.

Gaikwad, who said he had a 98% attendance in Parliament and had asked around 1,000 questions, however, said the work on the makeover of Dharavi had started in sector five and a Rs23 crore sports complex had been constructed. He denied charges of not working in saffron dominated areas and added that since the MNS accounted for all seven corporators and a MLA in the Dadar- Mahim belt, Shiv Sainiks approached him for help. "I never indulge in party politics,' said Gaikwad, adding that he had been consistently taking up issues related to Mumbai's railways and cluster redevelopment and had used up his annual Rs5 crore MP fund.

Gaikwad said he had consistently raised issues like granting the Jains minority status, land for the memorial for Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar at Indu Mill, and had given funds for gymnasiums, balwadis, ambulances for civic hospitals and repairs of old buildings.

"Though he represents a wider constituency, he works for a smaller constituency," said a Dadar resident and activist Ashok Rawat. He added that central government schemes in the housing sector had not been invoked much in the constituency and added that instead of the makeover of Dharavi, there was interest in the rising price of the land considering its location abutting the BKC.

"Though there are important railway stations in the constituency, nobody cares about the commuters" said Rawat, adding that it lacked open spaces despite the presence of some grounds like Shivaji Park.

"(Gaikwad's) work is very satisfactory, he is working well," added Nawab Malik, NCP MLA from Anushakti Nagar.

Problems in the constituency:
Inadequate railway infrastructure and facilities, lack of railway overbridges, drainage and sanitation in slums, repairs and reconstruction of old and dilapidated buildings, issue of residential buildings being declared heritage structures, lack of open spaces, encroachment on government land, makeover of Asia's largest slum of Dharavi.
 


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