Mumbai, Maharashtra - Many politicians from India’s financial hub of Mumbai seldom venture into the vast expanses of slums, which are homes to an estimated eight million residents, other than to lure them for votes.
Social activist Medha Patkar, who has been a familiar face to the slum dwellers for the past three decades, is contesting the parliamentary elections on an Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) ticket.
Known to most as Medha Tai (sister Medha), she is expected to put up a stiff competition against the ruling Congress party and the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidates when the city goes to the polls on April 24.
Patkar's most pressing agenda has been housing rights for all, especially those occupying make-shift arrangements.
“They are 72 percent of Mumbai's population, yet they occupy about eight percent of the city's land. It is an inhuman existence and sub-human subsistence that these slum dwellers are facing,” says the 60-year-old land rights advocate.
Famous for her social activism against the Narmada Dam project, where she led a group called Narmada Bachao Andolan (Save Narmada Agitation), demonstrations are not new to Patkar.
But if Patkar were to win, it would be the first time she would become a part of the very establishment that she had been protesting against for years.
When asked if political involvement will impact her independence, she said, "I will be the main gatekeeper of the party [AAP] to make sure wrongdoings are investigated."
While canvassing for votes with a door-to-door campaign in the North-East constituency, Patkar spoke to Al Jazeera on the need to combat corruption in real estate and eradicate government housing scams to guarantee affordable homes for all.
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