Friday, October 22, 2010

Wake up friends!


Deepak Pujara is the first Gujarati in over 50 years to stand for the Cochin Corporation elections. He is trying his luck as an Independent from Cheralai

By Shevlin Sebastian

Deepak Kumar Pujara got inspired when he saw a Tata Tea advertisement with the catch-line 'Jaago Re' (Wake up!). “My symbol is a cup and saucer,” he says. “I am telling the voters, as well as the elected councillors to wake up and do something for the good of the city.”

Deepak, who is standing for the councillor’s seat from Cheralai, Kochi, is the first Gujarati to do so in more than 50 years. He was inspired by Hansa Jayanth, his former class teacher at the Gujarati school in Kozhikode. “Hansa Teacher stood as an Independent backed by the LDF,” he says. Now she is the chairperson of the Standing Committee (Public Works) in the Kozhikode Corporation.

An avid newspaper reader, Deepak noticed that every community was putting up their own members for Corporation and state elections. “So I felt that I should try, on behalf of the Gujaratis,” he says.

In his division, out of 6000 votes, 1400 belong to Gujaratis. He is hoping they will throw their weight behind his candidature. But it is an uphill task. The sitting councillor, Shyamala S. Prabhu of the BJP has been holding the seat for 20 years.

“Most of the Gujaratis have supported Shyamala, a Konkani,” says Deepak. But there is a growing feeling among the community that Shyamala has not done much. “People are looking for a new face,” says Deepak.

Sensing the changed mood among the electorate, eight independents have thrown in their hats, apart from P. Radhakrishnan of the UDF and M. Murali Master, the LDF-backed Independent.

“Because of the presence of so many candidates, there is a strong chance of the votes being split,” says Vipin Patel, a local resident. But Deepak is keeping his fingers crossed. “If I get around one thousand of the Gujarati votes, I stand a good chance,” he says.

During his campaigning, Deepak has listened patiently to the people’s complaints. In Lalan Road, because of the lack of streetlights, women are afraid to walk on the street after 7 p.m. What increases the insecurity is the presence of a bar nearby.

In Bhatia Wadia, a Gujarati colony, the voters told Deepak that man has gone to the moon, but water has still not come to the locality in the past five decades. “When they complained to the councillor, they were told that the pipes were narrow and the water pressure was low,” says Deepak. However, like all candidates, Deepak has promised he will resolve all the problems.

In Kochi, where he has been living since his twenties, Deepak runs a travel agency near the South Railway station. Asked what he would do if he lost, he says, “I will carry on with my life, but I will definitely make another attempt in future.”

(The New Indian Express, Kochi)

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