Mumbai candidates better off with their better half 

Written By Unknown on Sabtu, 19 April 2014 | 22.23

MUMBAI: Despite the cynicism about politicians all around, the fact is, they do have their better halves. And almost all of Mumbai's Lok Sabha candidates are vouching for their spouse's support during the strenuous election campaign. This support has made their gruelling constituency trails easier, and in some cases, gone beyond just being a morale-booster: partners are helping candidates plan and strategise their campaigns so that they can cover the constituency in minimal time and get their message across clearly and concisely.

At the same time, in a role reversal of sorts, some of the male partners of women candidates have been taking care of the home front and ensuring the children are looked after.

Meera Sanyal, AAP candidate from Mumbai South, for instance, is one of the luckiest candidates: her husband, brother and mother have all stepped in to help. Her husband, Ashish, who runs a retail consultancy and lectures at management institutes, has taken a break from work and works as her campaign director.

"My husband brings insights from the world of business and marketing. We treat voters as consumers of services, not as votebanks," she says, adding that he has no vested interests, is good with people and stays calm through the heat of the campaign.

Her brother Dr Manek Hiranandani, a doctor who runs a hospital in Kerala, is currently in Mumbai working as her election agent, dealing with the Election Commission to ensure relevant documents are submitted on time and that the campaign adheres to EC guidelines. And her mother is working on door-to-door campaigns.

MP and Congress candidate from Mumbai North-Central Priya Dutt's husband, 43-year-old Owen Roncon, a partner in a music promotion company and a marketing firm, is currently playing, in his own words, surrogate mother. He is looking after their two sons. "That is my most important job," he says. But that's not all. He is also involved in planning her campaign. He says his wife's best quality is her "heart of gold". "She genuinely cares about the welfare of people. She has no other reason to be in politics," he claims. At present, the couple's day begins at 6.30am and never seems to end. "It merges into the morning," Roncon says.

Sanjay Nirupam, Congress candidate from Mumbai North, has his Maharashtrian wife Geeta to thank for facilitating communication with Marathi-speaking voters. A homemaker, she vigorously campaigns among the womenfolk. "I engage the women in Marathi," she says. Even when Nirupam is unable to reach a scheduled meeting in time as he is busy elsewhere, Geeta steps in and addresses the public.

Their daughter Shivani is holding youth rallies, apart from assisting her father in his social media campaign. She even created an Android application for him.

Milind Deora's wife Pooja Shetty-Deora, 35, joint managing director, Walkwater Media, is an entrepreneur in her own right. But she supports the Mumbai South Congress candidate's back-end team which has many professionals and experts in it. She is, however, modest about her contribution. "I do make suggestions and sometimes steer conversations in a certain direction," she says.

Minal, wife of AAP candidate for Mumbai North West Mayank Gandhi, is a clinical psychologist by profession and thus well-equipped to help him deal with a high-pressure campaign. She accompanies him on the campaign trail every day, plying him with food and an array of juices and taking care of him generally. His son, a doctor, has taken a break to work for him, and his son's fiance has come down from Gujarat to support him. While his daughter and son-in-law are both in government service and therefore unable to campaign for him, his son-in-law's parents travel to Mumbai from Pune to offer help.

For Medha, wife of BJP candidate from Mumbai North-East Kirit Somaiya, election time is exciting as she says she is herself a party worker first, having been to prison at the age of 15 during the Emergency. She is also BJP Mumbai unit vice-president, while their son is general secretary of the party's youth wing. She says she is "in charge of the campaign in an entire ward, number 101. I am also interested in the EC's workings and help party workers with work related to the EC. At the same time, I ensure Kirit eats and sleeps well."

The family of Satish Jain, AAP candidate from Mumbai North, has moved base from south Mumbai to Kandivli because Jain is working towards building a base for the party in north Mumbai not just for the LS polls but for the assembly elections too.

His wife Meenal is in charge of his campaign. She works out his daily schedule and goes door-to-door with him through the narrow gullies of his constituency, broom in hand, exhorting women from each locality to vote for the 'jhadoo.' She also helps him secure the many permissions needed for rallies and manages the campaign when they're running behind schedule.

(Inputs from Clara Lewis, Sandhya Soman, Nergish Sunavala and Anahita Mukherji)

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