Going solo

‘People Like Me Don’t Need a Party’

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The ABN Amro chief tells us why, despite a disappointing loss, she does not regret standing for the election

16 May was an unusual Saturday morning. If a year ago, someone had said I would be waiting outside a vote counting centre for the results of a parliamentary poll in which I was a candidate, I wouldn’t have believed him. But, I, a first-time Independent candidate from the Mumbai South constituency, and all of my 40-member campaign team were outside the Elephinstone College counting centre for the results, which, as it turned out, were disappointing. I pulled in 10,157 of the estimated 6,41,171 votes polled, much lower than our internal calculations.

The voters have given the Congress a clear mandate for development. After years of fractious coalition politics, this is an unfettered government. Mumbai now has five MPs from the Congress and one from their allies, the NCP. It is a wonderful opportunity for them to work as a team and fulfill their mandate to serve.

In my Punch-a-mantra, I laid out clear city agendas, which emphasised the need for greater investment in Mumbai’s infrastructure, a radical overhaul of our public transport, stronger security, the importance of implementing the Nagara Raj Bill in an undiluted form to empower citizens through the creation of area sabhas, and the necessity of a fully-empowered, directly-elected mayor. During the campaign, many of my opponents adopted this agenda. Now that they have won, I hope they will be accountable for delivering on this. They have another six months till the assembly polls to implement at least some of the plans.

Would things have been different if I had joined a party? The way I see it, people like me don’t need a party. Of all Mumbai South candidates, I spent the highest declared money in the campaign, and my agenda was different. When I decided to contest, I used as my mission statement the preamble of the Constitution, which gives every Indian the right to contest.

I am now back at work as the chief executive of ABN Amro Bank, India. The campaign was different from my corporate life, but not that different. I’ve done a lot of work in the public space. Besides, a CEO’s life is not all that people make it out to be. Yes, I do get into a Mercedes, but I also go shopping for vegetables and jump on to trains when I need to.

I have learnt the importance of contributing positively to the change I would like to see. I will continue to support my team members who wish to participate in the municipal elections. I have spoken to Mallika Sarabhai and Captain Gopinath, who were Independent candidates from Ahmedabad and Bangalore, and none of us regret the decision to participate. Next time, we will start the campaign earlier (this year, we got the election symbol only 15 days before voting began), and we will be better prepared.