February 19, 2012

Mumbai civic elections - things to learn

The Cathedral of the Holy Name of Jesus is tucked away in Mumbai's seaside Colaba area.

The church is also the seat of the Archbishop of the Roman Catholic diocese of Bombay.

The frescos, pipe organ and various religious pieces and gifts make this a must-see destination for a tourist.

Colaba was once an island, inhabited by the Kolis of the fishing community and the inhabitants of Bombay. The area later came under the reign of the Portuguese.

So Colaba is also a 'must-see' area for the tourist. Once, it was the hangout of the hippies and the backpackers and on 26/11, with the shoot-out at Café Leopold the area was internationally known.

The past three weeks, at the cathedral, there has been a simple but determined campaign.

A campaign to make citizens aware of their voting rights, the dos and donts at a polling booth and basic info on local wards and issues.

You may be aware that the city of Mumbai just had its elections to the Brihanmumbai Mahanagar Palike or the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).

The BMC's annul budget is about Rs.22,000 crores, perhaps far higher than the budgets of many small states in our country.

For 16 years, the BJP-Shiv Sena combine has been ruling the BMC and the top note during this campaign was 'change'.

However, smaller bodies and communities ran their own campaigns for this election which took place last Thursday.

And almost all the churches besides the cathedral sensitised their communities to the political reality.

Their notice boards carried posters, notes and newspaper clippings.

On the Sunday before the poll, the community even prayed that people would vote for and get good candidates.

Elsewhere, AGNI ( Action for Good Governance and Networking in India) devoted its newsletter called 'Mumbai Meri Jaan' to the poll. It also had its volunteers heading every ward to guide people.

At least two civil society groups put up their own candidates.

It was the quiet but determined campaign that the church in Mumbai encouraged that caught my attention. Mumbai's Catholic community is fairly involved, political and engaged.

The poll was an occasion to get people on the fringe involved and interested.

Chennai's Catholics, or for that matter its communities have much to learn from Mumbai. As far as grassroot politics goes.

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