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|A STAFF REPORTER | Tuesday, April 06, 2004 12:10:14 IST|
|Gavanpada residents vouch for their favourite MP who has been to their aid many a time|
|Kirit Somaiya has reasons to smile. More so after his early intervention to resolve a major environmental crisis in Gavanpada, a small village in suburban Chembur. Kirit Somaiya, the sitting Member of Parliament (MP) and Bhartiya Janata Party candidate from Mumbai North-East constituency that starts from his home turf in Mulund to Trombay including Chembur is a tough contender to Congress heavy-weight Gurudas Kamat. Residents attribute Somaiya’s rising popularity to an incident in the month of January this year.
Pandharinath Raghav Mhatre (66), a prominent figure among locals in Gavanpada says, “My family has lived here for generations together. With polluting factories in the vicinity, it feels as if we are sitting on a volcano that might erupt any moment from now.” He shudders at the mere mention about the silicon shower from the adjoining Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL), “The silica dust showers from the HPCL factory camouflaged the entire area in a layer of white powder. Many stray animals died as a result of the downpour.” Repeated appeals to the company officials fell on deaf ears. But Mathre adds with pride, “Kirit Somaiya came to this tiny hamlet with a population of 15,000 families on learning about our plight. He held talks with officials and they assured that the ‘shower would stop’. And it indeed has.”
Electric poles along the roads is yet another issue that bothers the people of Gavanpada. “Due to non-availability of electric poles on this stretch of road leading to our village, accidents are regular feature. Electricity Board is waiting for the guard bars to be installed, as promised by HPCL. Nothing has been done.”
Anther major issue is need for an overhead bridge. With issues ranging from minor to serious like the ‘silicon shower’, it is obvious that the people will vote only to the person who represents them in the truest sense of the word. “Kirit aapla manus aahey,” sums up Mhatre.
BJP leader and MP for Mumbai northeast, Kirit Somaiya, has chalked out an interesting campaigning strategy. Apart from sending SMS to cell phones of residents, the media-savvy politician is now sending recorded telephonic messages to residents of his constituency.
Says Nirav Chandran, of Yuvak Pratishthan, an NGO headed by Somaiya, “This is a scientific mode of communicating with our voters.” The recorded message is played in three languages — Hindi, Gujarati and Marathi.
Chandran says that Somaiya’s office has collated the database of people to be called from MTNL directory. “We sorted the numbers on the basis of area pin code. There are 2,60,000 residential lines in the constituency, which stretches from Mulund to Kurla,” says Chandran.
Explaining how the party is planning to call 2,60,000 people, Chandran says, “A pre-recorded message has been stored in the computers at the call centre from where it is played.”
The party office is happy with the response from citizens. “The response has been tremendous. Citizens have been touched. For the first time, an MP has made an attempt to directly get in touch with people about the work he has undertaken.”
Apart from telephone numbers, the MP also has a database of 7,000 e-mail IDs. “It is difficult to catalogue e-mail addresses constituency-wise. But we will go ahead with our plans to stay in touch with citizens by this mode of communication as well,” says Chandran.
Also staff has been stationed Somaiya’s office in Mulund to give feedback to the voters on the issues pertaining to the voting list. “We have been sending the message via SMS. The message also contains telephone numbers. The voters can calls us back to get details,” he adds.
|Splitting people across communities|
Somaiya’s office has split the list of people to be called on the basis of community and surnames.
“There are 6,800 surnames in the directory list for Mumbai northeast. When our office calls a person whose surname is Shah, he gets to hear the message in Gujarati.
|Plan to work in two phases|
|In the first phase, Somaiya asks his voters to get their names registered in the voting list. In the second phase, he will inform the voters about the important work he has undertaken during his term as MP.“When a call is made to a Ghatkopar resident, Somaiya will inform him about the status of the widening of the MG Road ROB or the opening of the ticket window and beautification of Eastern Express High way,” says Nirav Chandran of Yuvak Pratishthan.
The number of e-mail IDs in Kirit Somaiya’s database
The number of residential lines from Mulund to Kurla