The tea bubbles in the saucepan at the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) office in Thane. And people stream in and out almost non-stop. Most of the visitors are for Anand Paranjpe, the NCP candidate for the Lok Sabha polls, and party leader Jitendra Awhad. From a corner, Prabhakar Sawant and Raj Rajapurkar watch the crowd. Nothing escapes their eyes—for they are the intermediaries between the electorate and the party. They are the grassroots worker; the indefatigable foot soldier who knows each booth, volunteer, and their day-today activities.
Sawant, who heads the NCP’s Thane unit, was with the BJP for almost three decades before he became an NCP member in 2008. “I have seen all the prime ministers in my life. I was active post-Emergency, but this is the only prime minister who is a dictator. We are reaching out to as many people as we can to make sure the BJP is defeated,” he says and stresses that people are unhappy with the NDA government because of demonetisation, poor implementation of the GST, and unemployment.
Sawant has a personal axe to grind against the 2016 scrapping of 1,000- and 500-rupee notes. “My son had three ice cream shops and was doing well. But after DEMo, the business went down for two-three months and did not pick up even by half. He has closed all the shops. This is the story of almost all traders across sections. They never came out of the red. People will not forget such decisions that brought them down.”
For his part, Rajapurkar, in charge of the party’s OBC cell, is in touch with hundreds of people and uses every technology at hand. An articulate and persuasive party worker, he wants to use “old and new” methods to reach out to as many voters as possible. They are now going hyper-local with WhatsApp groups of housing societies and telling them about election issues. “People in Thane want a kind MP, not a corporator-type. They want someone accessible and educated. Thane no longer has a Marathi-only population. The constituency covers migrants from north and south as well. They want someone who will connect with MPs from their home states. I know this because I talk to people. I have been recording videos and posting them on my Facebook page.”
The Shiv Sena-BJP office, hardly 10 minutes away, presents a contrasting sight. There are visitors and crowds all right, but the attitude is markedly different—guarded, quiet and unenthusiastic. “Elections are still some time away. We are yet to hit the ground,” says Mr Tilak, refusing to give his full name and details. Another office-bearer chips in, “What is there to say. Everyone will do their job once the date is closer. We are making a document of all the work that has been done.” It was not available at the office for perusal. Rajan Vichare, the MP, wasn’t unavailable for comments.