They run out of their shanties in Sabarmati’s slums to greet the senior advocate, who has been “saving the houses of the poor” for over 10 years. Mukul Sinha has contested several demolition orders in court and is known to the poor as a man who wins his cases for them. He is now contesting the election, for his party New Socialist Movement.
Sinha, whose roots are in what is now Chhattisgarh, started his career as a physicist in Physical Research Laboratory where he set up a labour union, the first ever in any educational institute, in 1979. Since he took up law, Sinha has spent the last 30 years fighting for people’s rights in Gujarat.
Muslims in particular identify with him because he has represented 2002 riots victims before the Nanavati Commission. His NGO, Jan Sangarsh Manch, has fought for BPL families in the slums to prevent demolition of their houses for various projects.
Muslims rush to him at Bakra Mandi, an area sitting MLA Geeta Patel never visited in five years. “For us, he is next to God,” says elderly painter Bashir Ahmed. “He saved our homes. He has been fighting for our rights for over 10 years without expecting anything in return.”
The poor include OBCs and scheduled castes besides Muslims. They say the dominant Patels have so far enjoyed all benefits of development. Neither BJP candidate Arvind Patel nor the Congress’s Bharat Patel has campaigned in these areas. Bharat Panchal of the Gujarat Parivartan Party held a few campaigns but chose not to include these zones.
Sinha’s opponents are all Patels, two of them builders who have tried removed several times to get the slums. Former deputy chief minister Narhari Amin fought from Sabarmati twice on a Congress ticket and lost. Today, Amin is a BJP member and yet his name is not even discussed among Patels in Sabarmati.
“Such is the dominance of the ruling party that we couldn’t hire an office,” says Sinha. “Gradually when we started meeting even those who were ignoring us, they mellowed down.”
When Sinha held his first meeting, at