Monday, October 5, 2009

'Sandeep Naik have worked at the grassroot level for city'

Sandeep Naik, the youngest contestant from the satellite city - and the son of sitting MLA, Guardian Minister Ganesh Naik - is a picture of confidence. It's nine in the morning; he has already been up for three hours, knocked off a series of meetings and is all set for another 16-hour work day on the campaign trail. Sandeep Naik takes time out for an exclusive interview .
Q. Older brother in Parliament, father in Assembly and you in the corporation - it seemed like the perfect arrangement for the Naik family. Then, why this move to contest the Assembly elections and become an MLA?
A. It is not my decision or the family's decision, but the insistence of the people that has lead me to contest the Assembly election. In fact, I was quite content working at the corporation level and given the aspirations of many candidates, the demands of other hopefuls, I was not even thinking about contesting. But, our party leaders - and all the people - thought that it was time for me to take up larger responsibilities, expand my reach and serve people on a bigger scale.
Having said that, Naiksaab's original Belapur Assembly constituency got split into five constituencies, post delimitation, with two of them falling under Navi Mumbai. Since he has done a lot of work in this constituency over the past 20 years, it makes sense for his party to get its own MLA elected in the newly carved constituency.
Q. But then, your candidature has given your opponents a chance to rake the issue of dynastic politics. Doesn't that affect you, and your chances?
A. Had I been a green horn making a backdoor entry, with no grassroot experience, there would be some substance to such talks. But I have cut my teeth right at the basic level, getting elected by the people as a corporator, understanding every problem being faced by them, solving every issue of gutter-water-meter (drainage, water supply and power). As the Standing Committee chairman, I have visited every nook and corner of the city and know about the issues that matter to the people. And today I am ready to take up their issues at the state level and work as an MLA for the betterment of Navi Mumbai.
Q. What about the allegations that the Naiks are buying out people?
A. (Laughs). We have not bought out people, but we have won them over. Navi Mumbai comprises of highly educated people, who understand everything and know what to expect from their elected representative. Now, tell me is it possible to buy out lakhs of intelligent, educated people spanning across two huge constituencies.
Q. You have been campaigning aggressively over the past few days. What is the response from the people?
A. I am absolutely overwhelmed by the warm welcome that I am getting everywhere.
People from every community - Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Sikhs - and every segment of the society, are laying the red carpet for us. In fact, my father accompanied me (to Airoli) only on the first day, to formally introduce me to his people as their own candidate and ever since, I have been campaigning on my own. All my working at the grassroot level and the support of our corporators in every part of the constituency is paying dividends.
Q. You already have a lot to your credit as the Standing Committee chairperson. Is that coming in handy while campaigning?
A. Of course, your work speaks for you. The systematic implementation of a huge water supply plan, the creation of a fantastic road network and good connectivity, comfortable intra-city and inter-city transportation - it's all there for people to see. Besides, we have done a lot of work at the civic level. For instance, in education, we have set up municipal schools that are at par with private schools. Towards recreation, we have created beautiful parks and gardens. For enhancing the aesthetic appeal of the city, we have created water bodies and executed systematic street designs across the nodes. It's all happening, even as we make Navi Mumbai truly an example of a great planned city.
Q. We have known you as the able back office man, putting everything in place when your brother (Sanjeev) was contesting the Lok Sabha polls? Who's manning the back office now?
A. We have huge support from our workers, corporators and other people. Every body is contributing whole-heartedly. The planning and the system is already in place; the people just have to work on the given plan, which they are doing.
Q. Your brother defeated Vijay Chauguley in the parliamentary polls. Are you aiming at his complete decimation with the Assembly win?
A. I am an educated person, doing good work for the people and seeking their votes on the strength of my work and my abilities. I don't even want to give a thought to my opponents; my focus is on the people.
Q. And what's your take on the rebellious Congressmen, who are contesting as Independent candidates?
A. They are fighting a lone - and a lost - battle. Not only their seniors at the state and national level are with us, but even their juniors at the grassroot level in Navi Mumbai are supporting us. So, we don't have to worry about independent individuals fighting for their own cause.
Q. What can the people of Airoli constituency expect if they make you the MLA?
A. Navi Mumbai will have the advantage of having its own people across all levels - right from the parliament to the assembly, right down to the corporation. Our own people in key positions will help us in getting faster clearance for proposals and faster execution of development work. There would be no deviation on account of politics, since we will all be on the same side, with the same goal and the same vision. Talking specifically about the Airoli constituency, I have a lot of micro plans. One of them is to revive the industries in the Thane-Belapur Industrial Area, which will create a lot of new jobs and give a boost to the local economy.
Q. During the Lok Sabha polls, the MNS factor proved crucial to NCP's win. This time, there is no MNS candidate in Airoli constituency. Will it pose a problem to your chances?
A. The voters of MNS - young, charged and conscious - are also our voters. So, this time round, those votes will come directly to us.
Q. And by what margin do you hope to win the elections?
A. Let the people of Airoli constituency decide that!
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