India Insight

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.

Professionals in politics?

What’s common to a banker, a dancer and a former U.N. under-secretary general?

Answer: they are all contesting the general election in India.

The main battle in the polls from April 16 to May 13 this year, as in years past, is between the centre-left ruling Congress and the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party. A loose alliance of smaller regional parties has formed a Third Front, as well.

But Meera Sanyal, the country head of ABN Amro Bank, is not aligning with any of them. She will contest from South Mumbai, an upmarket locality and the main business district, as an independent candidate.