Independents speak softly, carry a big placard
It’s 7.30 am, but the small band of supporters of Meera Sanyal, the ABN-Amro banker contesting the election as an independent in south Mumbai, is bright-eyed and raring to go, holding placards and shouting “Vote for Meera Sanyal”.
At the first stop, a housing colony of about 300 middle-class families, they disperse, some knocking on doors, others distributing handbills and chatting with curious residents getting ready for the day.
Sanyal, dressed in a traditional salwar-kameez and sneakers, folds her hands and introduces herself in Hindi, and seeks the blessings of an older woman: “I am trying to understand your problems better,” she says.
A young man to whom she introduces herself tells her independent candidates can’t make a difference.
“What have parties done for south Mumbai. They have not delivered,” Sanyal tells him.
He remains unconvinced, so Sanyal tells him: “You are welcome to vote for whoever you want. I think I can make more of a difference as an independent.”
Another resident gives Sanyal’s brother, her “back office manager”, a handwritten complaint about a landfill in the back. Sanyal’s brother, a surgeon who has shut his small hospital to help his sister with her campaign, goes off to look at the landfill, while the others, including a live mascot of the cricketer symbol she’s campaigning under, join hands and sing “Hum Honge Kaamyab”, a Hindi version of “We shall overcome”.
Their routine is in sharp contrast to the dramatic chopper entry, the loudspeakers, giant cutouts and massive rallies of larger parties. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last week called independents “spoilers” and some prominent business leaders have endorsed the Congress incumbent in south Mumbai, saying independents will split the vote.