Armed with LJP ticket, slum dweller eyes Ellisbridge seat

Maya Solanki

This is the first time that someone from Gulbai Tekra is fighting Assembly polls.

Thirty-two-year-old Mala Solanki is the first political representative from Gulbai Tekra, one of the largest slums of Ahmedabad, to fight Assembly elections on a party ticket.

Solanki, who lives in a tin-roofed shanty, is nowadays busy campaigning in the area and appealing to voters to cast their ballot for "bungalow", the official election symbol of Ram Vilas Paswan's Lok Janshakti Party (LJP).

His target audience is largely the 20,000-odd slum-dwellers who live in and around Gulbai Tekra, an area that comes alive around September when idols of Lord Ganesha idols come up in areas that fall under the Ellisbridge Assembly constituency.

"The state government's decision of banning the PoP (Plaster of Paris) idols was a major setback for us. We approached various officials and leaders requesting them to lift this ban. Everywhere, we were shown the door. Though we got the ban lifted through the High Court, it was only three days before the festival. This severely affected our earnings," says Solanki while talking about issues that surround his election campaign.

"The moment any official notices 'Gulbai Tekra' on our application, form or a complaint, they simply put it aside without any reason...For decades, our problems and issues have fallen on deaf ears," he says, sitting outside the dingy house of his sister that doubles as his office in an area nestled between private colleges, flashy shopping arcades and towering multi-storyed structures.

In his affidavit filed before the Election Commission, Mala describes himself as a "daily-wager", has no assets except for Rs 30,000 in cash and Rs 300 he has in his bank account.

"In the history of this slum, that has 5,500 registered voters, it is for the first time that one of its residents is contesting Assembly election, that too on a party ticket," says Devji Batti, a resident of Gulbai Tekra who calls himself as a BJP worker.

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