The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation or BMC elections are coming up. One of the biggest cities in the world, Mumbai has a whopping 227 corporator seats. The Shiv Sena is currently in power, with its ally, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). In this election though, the Saffron combine has got a blue hue as well with a faction of the Republican Party of India (RPI) led by local Dalit leader, Ramdas Athavle joining the alliance in what is being called the ‘Mahayuti’ or ‘Great Alliance.’ The BJPs natural enemies, an alliance of the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), are in the opposition.

The BMC elections are extremely important for two reasons: 1) an annual budget of Rs. 21,000 crore makes the BMC the richest municipal body in India. All parties (the local leaders) love the prospect of so much money at their disposal! 2) The polls decide who controls the capital city of Maharashtra, a very prestigious responsibility.

As is evident by the pathetic condition of Mumbai’s roads (especially in the monsoons) and the massive amount of corruption reported in the BMC, the Shiv Sena-BJP combine definitely do not seem to have done their job! So, in the ordinary (unfortunate) circumstances, the logical alternative to Mumbai’s voter would have been to get the Congress-NCP in power. However, with the Congress-NCP ruling a Centre that is said to be the most corrupt Government ever, the ‘other side’ might just prove to be worse! So, where does the voter go? Who do Mumbaikars vote for? Are there just two options: grey and black? Where is the white or at least the cream?

These questions have remained unanswered for a long time in Indian democracy. This time Mumbai does have a third option. A safe one, which could result in the removal of political control over local bodies for good! I prefer to call this option as ‘evidence’ of how the Anna Hazare campaign did, in fact strengthen our democracy. The campaign has successfully made the sad, hopeless and directionless urban middle-class citizen, suddenly, a lot more politically conscious. It is almost like the beginning of the reinvention of democracy in India. In India it began with universal franchise (an unheard-of concept in Asia at the time!) at a time when every Indian had been trained only to carry on life irrespective of who the ruler was. The ‘One Man, One Vote’ gave the average, voiceless Indian a sudden sense of importance. He felt that his vote could secure for him a better future. That faith has long disappeared in India. Nonetheless, I am positive that this self-belief is on its way back. And if it comes soon, I think we would owe it to the IAC movement.

Coming back to this third option, a citizen’s group has decided that it is time they take matters into their own hands. They have invited independent candidates who will be scrutinized by a demanding Selection Panel that includes the likes of Julio Rebeiro, Amole Gupte, etc. They call this platform, Mumbai227. Their website has details of the experts on their Advisory Board on various important issues of the city. Of course their chances of winning this election seem very limited to me, but I hope that at least it will be a start of something new. Through this blog I want to spread word about Mumbai227 as much as possible and for the same I urge you to please visit their website: http://www.mumbai227.com/ and consider voting for independent candidates rather than political parties who are bound to have vested interests!

The other option is one that is not limited to Mumbai alone – the Lok Satta Party. A result of a popular citizen movement in a South Indian city led by Dr. Jaiprakash Narayan, it entered politics in 2006 and Dr. Narayan has already been elected as MP. Their motto is ‘Aware Citizens. Clean Politics’ and believe that “there is a pressing need to demonstrate that with the people’s support, an ethical and values based politics is not only possible, but it is the best way to achieve collective and sustained prosperity.” Their webpage can be viewed on: http://www.loksatta.org/

In light of recent events, I think as responsible citizens it is our duty to help such independent, clean political movements. I sincerely hope that such organizations continue to provide Indians with an option and grow in size to replace the incumbent ‘national parties.’

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