Gilbert Hill. Andheri West.
And the battle for the heart and votes of its residents.
Gilbert Hill is now dwarfed by buildings. It has been gnawed at from three sides for the rocks and it is approachable from the east through the path shown in the picture above. It houses an old Gaondevi (durga) Temple. It is a walkable distance from Andheri Station, down the lane next to Cafe Alpha.
The place is mix of slums. SRA housing, and some new buildings. More buildings are coming up under the SRA scheme and this place is and will go through major changes in the coming years.
Gilbert Hill from the East:
The west is a sprawling slum. It is slowly being cleared under SRA projects and in a few years. This is how Gilbert Hill looks like as it rubs shoulders with buildings that are coming up.
Gilbert Hill from the West:
The open space in the foreground has been cleared for high-rises that will be built. The residents will have homes next to the same development.
The Battle For The Heart And Votes.
Gilbert Hill is a geological marvel that sat majestically in the middle of the Salsette Island through many ages, megafauna and flora extinctions and who knows what. Until is was dwarfed by high rises. Under its shadow, the people or rather, the voters of Gilbert Hill seem to be sought after by all politicians. The parties that are behind the heart and votes of the people (They have more diversity than in other wards of Mumbai). Here are a few of their identities and messages from the past and for the coming BMC elections.
AIMIM seems to be the most vocal of the parties here. They use the slogan from a Salman Khan song in Bodyguard: Feel The Power.
They also have a verse here that appeals directly to Shia community: It says that the 313 soldiers are not coming to save you but you have to stand up and fight for your rights.
Shiv Sena also has its presence here but not pronounced. It also addresses a more immediate concern about Slum Demolition after a fire in a slum Bandra (with illegal floors/levels).
The Congress has a poster for their Jan Akrosh campaign (Demonetisation).
But a bigger banner from an NGO and is that of a new drug that is affecting the youth here: Internet Porm
Congress also seems to have a local leader and Councillor who is trying hard. He is using the lure of a descendant of the Tiger of Mysore, Tipu Sultan: Mehman e Khususi Sahebzada Sayyed Manzur Ali.
AIMIM is a Hyderad based party. Tipu the Tiger is a big name in the Mysore region. So is it appealing to people in Gilbert Hill who are originally from that region? I even saw a poster of the CM of Karnataka with the Sword of Tipu Sultan.
But that does not mean that people here are from those two places. See this interesting poster below. Look at the man on the bottom right. For a minute I thought that it was the Late CM of Karnataka, S Bangarappa back in action and helping a candidate in Mumbai.
Meet Boss Baba from Krishnagiri in Tamil Nadu who is proposing a condidet (Candidate) who appeals to the residents who are from Azangarh in UP.
From the north is also a message from a party that made a brief appearance in Mumbai in the last election: The Aam Aadmi Party.
Another aspiring harvester of hearts and votes seemed to have taken the reservations for Muslims route:
One of the surprises here was that even the CPI (M) was trying its luck here. And with an intellectual twist. It had a member from J&K visiting to talk about the situation there.
And on the road to Gilbert Hill from Andheri Station in a middle class housing society just before you enter the slum is this banner for Bharatiya Modi Army to save nature and offers Martial Arts training to kids. It also lists all of Modi's slogans from his first year in power.
This is the beauty of democracy. Or the madness. Depending on how you look at it.
But are the people really interested. The people seem to be more movie mad and fun loving. The kids go to school or Madrassas depending on the earning power (or spending power) of the parents. Andheri and Bollywood is next door. The youngsters are nore interested in love, movies and maybe porn.
Some identities are not expressed by the politicians in their banners. One of the quarters of the slum is home to the Dhangars from North Karnataka/Maharashtra border. It's a place to go if you want some authentic Dhangar food. The reason the poster had Kannada and Telugu is because the Jatra advertisied is in Sedam. Gulbarga which borders Telengana and Solapur in Maharashtra. They are comfortable with 3 languages there besides Urdu.
I wonder why the politicians are not trying to win the hearts of the Dhangar hearts and votes aggressively.