“Main Aam Aadmi ka candidate hoon, Pheroze Palkhivala,” he says softly. He then takes a step forward and gives a friendly hug to a voter.
On March 20, the Aam Admi Party nominated Palkhivala, a 47-year-old advocate with a long-standing counsel practice at the Bombay high court, to take on the present Congress Member of Parliament Priya Dutt in Mumbai’s North-Central Lok Sabha constituency. Nephew of eminent jurist the late Nani Palkhivala, the party is gung-ho about him, and as you tag along the tireless daily campaign walks with the young lawyer, Palkhivala says, “People are hungry for change. They say they want a party they can believe in. They are not used to any form of recognition, affection, empathy…”
As he tours through transit camps, slums, housing colonies and visits voters door to door in the first fortnight, he listens to voters. At a multi-storey transit camp in Kurla, a resident tells him how despite promises, there are no toilets on each floor. And the camp meant for 18 months has the same people housed there for nine years. “Agents, developers hold sway,” says a man when Palkhivala sympathizes with an an old woman. “Dabbang-girii chaalu hain, jungle raj hain,” adds the man dramatically. “We take note of every problem mentioned and will tackle it,” Palkhivala tells TOI later. The problems are many. Slum redevelopment, sanitation, old buildings and condition of roads.
The tall, slender lawyer gives eveyrone a robust handshake. He dismisses advice to carry a sanitizer. “These are my people and if their hands are dirty, let the dirt pass on to me,” says the lawyer who has argued many a public interest litigation and been a standing counsel for BEST.
The padyatras have stopped as time is now a constraint in the month-long campaign and the constituency is vast—Bandra East and West, Chandivali, Kurla and Kalina and Vile Parle assembly segments. Money is also a constraint, but he has volunteers, and they are counting on social media.
Palkhivala, a Government Law College graduate, who lives in Breach Candy, no longer sits in the second floor original side library for lawyers at the Bombay high court. Instead, he heads early to Bandra where a businessman has donated office space at MIG Colony. Support has come in from the legal fraternity, mostly as donations from senior lawyers. Veteran family court lawyer Mrinalani Deshmukh, too, is out in his support and a couple of young lawyers rush to help him after the day ends at the high court. His wife, who supports his decision, is at home to take care of their two boys, as Palkhivala ends his days around midnight.
Palkhivala’s right hand, 27-year-old vehicle dealership businessman Amit Mishra, who stopped going to work, chalks out his campaign trail along with other volunteers. “We are going to cover Bandra (East) today. We have already done a padyatra in Behrampada,” he says on Tuesday and adds, “We walked so deep inside, we needed flashlights during the day.” Imran Kawser, a 40-year-old with a tour business, put all work on hold and is also Palkhivala’s key strategist.
Palkhivala, in between rallies on Tuesday, said he agreed to the nomination request after the AAP member told him, “it’s high time we get out of our comfort zone and do something for our country”. He is doing something now, he feels, as gives his trademark smile, “The results I leave to the divine.”
Here is a video clip of an interview with Phiroze.