At sharp 7 a.m. every day, Kolhapur Municipal Corporation’s (KMC) Deputy Mayor Sanjay Mohite of the Congress exits his home, breathes the fresh morning air, hops onto his bicycle and starts on a brisk round of the tiny Sykes Extension Ward in this erstwhile royal town in western Maharashtra.
The Congress leader’s two-hour daily routine is unchanged for over five years to serve his 6,000-plus constituents, many hurrying for their morning chores like buying milk, bread or vegetables, many nodding their heads, while others greeting with ‘Namaste’ or ‘Good Morning’, irrespective of the season.
At one corner of the main road, the soft-spoken Mohite, 60, espies a group of worried citizens and stops his bicycle to enquire about their concerns.
One of them points to a roadside drain and informs how since last evening it has got choked, stinking and on the verge of overflowing onto the roads, not a pleasant sight in what is supposed to be a former proud royal kingdom of the Chhatrapatis of Kolhapur.
“I immediately call up the concerned persons in the KMC, wait till they sent a team and ensure the work is completed as soon as possible. Occasionally, it can even take more time, so I follow it up regularly till the matter is resolved,” Mohite told IANS.
Then, Mohite pedals away to resolve the next problems, the nuisance of some uncollected garbage bins, at times water issues, minor road repair works, blank streetlights, et al.
“I am inspired by Mahatma Gandhi to take up such a ‘mass-contact’ form of public service… Gandhiji used to live and work among the masses and could gauge the pulse of the people. The problems may be small, but people expect immediate redressal from the elected representatives, and it’s their right in a democracy,” Mohite pointed out.
The ‘Cycle Samaritan’, as some people fondly call him, said that on average he catches up with at least two dozen people daily, more on some days, and as a result, the “entire ward knows me personally”.
“You ask any other elected representatives like ministers, legislators, parliamentarians or corporators from any political party, they will acknowledge my services to the people,” Mohite said on his cycle sojourn.
A good cricketer and staunch Congressman all his life, his pedaling has not gone waste but got rich dividends — the Sykes Extension Ward won the Maharashtra government’s coveted ‘Sant Gadge Maharaj Swachhata Abhiyan’ award six times in the last 10 years.
Besides, Mohite — a self-confessed big fan of Amitabh Bachchan — has been instrumental in getting generous funds allocated for various community and development projects in the ward, to the tune of over Rs 3 crore in the last five years, which struck a chord with the locals.
Some of the works include road repairs, improving the drainage networks, setting up a community hall, starting a gym, gardens, a walking track etc. for the people of the ward.
“He not only understands the peoples’ issues thoroughly, but also takes them up as a ‘personal challenge’ to resolve them with the endeavor to make his ward the best place for all his constituents,” said P.M. Joshi, a Kolhapur resident.
Though Mohite believes in the power of technology and modern communication modes, he feels nothing can beat ‘personal contact’ of leaders with their constituents, not even adopting the current social media fads.
He revealed how in the past he would zoom around the city on a scooter, but later he found a bicycle more convenient and cheap, which also keeps him fit and active, and endears him more to the masses.
Delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the elections to the Congress-run KMC shall be announced early next year and it is likely that the party will reward Mohite with a ticket for the third term.