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High stakes poll battle in India's economic hub.

Summary: Despite being wealthy, the constituency is barely 'generous' in exercising its franchise

Mumbai: Stretching from the imposing skyrises of Colaba and Malabar Hill to the fishermen's colonies in Worli, the prestigious VVIP Mumbai South Lok Sabha constituency is the richest in the country making it a high-stakes affair for the two main contestants -- Shiv Sena sitting MP Arvind G. Sawant and rival Milind M. Deora of the Congress.

Despite being wealthy, the constituency is barely "generous" in exercising its franchise -- it was way back in 1967, when George Fernandes won on a single point agenda of providing sufficient water supply to all, that 67.42 per cent electorate voted.

Again in 1991, the voting percentage plummeted to an abysmal 38.65, giving credence to the belief that people in high-rises remain indifferent to the political process. But in 2014 the percentage went up to a modest 52.48.

The population of Mumbai South is approximately two million and the voter strength is 1,485,846 including 15 per cent of some of the country's richest, a large 70 per cent dollop of middle-class and a sprinkling of 15 per cent eking out an existence in slums in what is one of the few fully urbanised constituencies of India.

I am the voice of the masses and the classes. I have been present whenever and wherever I was needed in the past five years - Shiv Sena sitting MP Arvind G. Sawant

Unconcerned by the turnout figures, Shiv Sena's Sawant is optimistic about his chances of winning again.

"I am the voice of the masses and the classes. I have been present whenever and wherever I was needed in the past five years," Sawant said.

On his rival Deora, he shot back: "Where was he for the past four years and nine months? This is what ordinary people and the business community ask me. It is my work for all sections and my contacts with the masses that will decide the election."

The former Union minister Deora appears unflustered by the opposition barbs.

After all, in a political-corporate coup of sorts, last fortnight, he secured the open support of key players from India Inc, sending panic waves in the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-Sena combine.

Ranked as one of the most cosmopolitan constituencies, Mumbai South is beset with many problems that have remained unresolved over the years.

"There are hundreds of old buildings, ancient sewage lines, house gullies, traffic congestion and slum pockets in Darukhana, BPT, Colaba and Worli which are of great concern," Waris Pathan, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen's sole Mumbai MLA, told journalists.

Many offices

Though there is the ambitious Coastal Road project coming up, Patyan says "a lot will depend on its implementation, or it will be disastrous for the entire city".

Besides, there is the gnawing problem of security in the region which has witnessed two of the worst terror strikes in the country -- the 1993 serial bomb blasts and the 2008 terror strikes.

Not surprising, since this constituency is home to the country's most affluent business districts which contribute hugely to the national exchequer, some of the poshest residential complexes, Indian and foreign banks, and national and international firms are headquartered here.

There are also offices of global corporates, airlines, embassies, luxury hotels, swanky restaurants and pubs, global tourist attractions, open shopping plazas, malls and multiplexes, reputed schools, colleges, an array of heritage buildings, the official residences of Maharashtra governor, chief minister, the chief justice of Bombay High Court and other judges, the legislature and the Mantralaya.

minister, the chief justice of Bombay High Court and other judges, the legislature and the Mantralaya.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Apr 28, 2019
Words:622
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