At least ten advanced locality management (ALM) organisations in Juhu have publicly denounced Renu Hansraj, the ‘citizen candidate’ being backed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Ward 69 for the upcoming civic elections. Apart from losing out on support from a significant number of residents of the area, Hansraj—a first time candidate—will be up against Neha Kumar, a member of the Chand Chandan ALM in Juhu who contested the BMC elections in 2012 as well. Earlier, media reports had indicated that Juhu residents had told the BJP to back a candidate that they identified. Last month, representatives from 10 ALMs including former citizen corporator Adoph D’Souza, Anand Desai of Juhu Citizens’ Welfare group, and Sherley Singh of Juhu Scheme Residents’ Association, besides others, had been circulating a message on groups on social media. The message said they had “not carried out any selection process nor proposed any particular person as a citizens’ candidate for any political party” and the candidate would be contesting in her personal capacity.
Recently, at least four ‘citizen activists’ have joined the party, including Makarand Narwekar, a sitting corporator in the civic body, and they are contesting in the upcoming civic elections for the party. Other residents’ groups have, however, expressed their displeasure about the BJP pushing citizen activists to contest for the party.
A member of one of the ALMs, Anand Desai said that no one had even heard of Hansraj in Juhu and neither had the ALMs been consulted before declaring her as the citizens’ candidate. “She may have been a part of MLA Ameet Satam’s inner circle who has doubled up as an activist but I haven’t heard of her in the past ten years. The BJP is simply trying to broaden their appeal by putting up local non-aligned individuals as candidates and it is unethical,” he said.
Desai claimed that while Kumar will have to campaign aggressively, she is well known in the area and is a far more deserving candidate than Hansraj.
Similarly, former corporator, D’Souza said that Hansraj’s candidature had raised certain concerns among the resident groups who that they might be taken for a ride. “A woman who has not been active in the area for more than a year has been picked as the citizens’ choice. It seems as if it was already decided beforehand and my concern is that she may be a puppet or rubber stamp which will negatively affect the citizens. Political parties should respect the space for civic activism,” he said.
Upset over the development, Kumar said she decided to contest as an Independent from the same ward only after she found out about Hansraj being pitched as the citizens’ choice. “Hansraj has been campaigning as a citizens’ corporator which is wrong and she should be honest about being a BJP candidate only. I decided to contest as well to stand up for the citizens’ concerns and I am confident that the ALMs of Juhu with whom I have worked with for the past 15 years will support me in the upcoming elections,” she said.