‘India before Independence was the best. I miss it. I miss the old times’

Boman Kohinoor, 92, restaurateur, Mumbai

Boman Kohinoor loves India before Independence

My father started this restaurant in 1923, the same year I was born. It was the British rule then, and the Municipal Commissioner of Bombay was British. Whenever he saw any business with a British name, he got happy and granted permission to open it. That is why my father named this Britannia & Co.  

I have been running this restaurant [in Fort, Mumbai] for 75 years now. I have seen India before Independence. And Gandhiji. I used to go with my best friend to fight Gandhiji. Why? Because he wanted Partition, and we didn’t want Partition. He said, I want freedom. We used to tell him you will get freedom, but why do you want Partition? He used to say, ‘After I die, you will get freedom. I want freedom in my lifetime.’ 

Gandhiji gave his life for freedom. And we are free now. But every day there is trouble. All our jawaans [soldiers] are being killed. The political system in India is deteriorating.

I never vote. Never, never. For these politicians who are always fighting each other, killing? Never.

The other day Udhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sena and his cousin, Raj Thackeray’s MNS [Maharashtra Navnirman Sena] party went to file nomination papers. They fought outside. With stones. And they hit a policeman. Seriously injured him. This is hooliganism. We got freedom for all this? We are free to hit each other?

This is a very sorry state of affairs. These people are not fit to rule. They are not statesmen. They are hooligans. A statesman has to govern a country. There was a new fellow, recently, who talked a lot. He got elected as the Chief Minister of Delhi, [Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind] Kejriwal. What happened? Only 49 days.

No one in my family votes. Never. I don’t like politics. Right from childhood, I took a hatred to politics. I used to read that politics is a dirty game. And really it is a dirty game. People tell me to join it. But I don’t want to. I don’t like all this, and I am also too old.

Boman Kohinoor has run this restaurant for 75 years now

India before independence was the best. I miss it. I miss the old times. I sent this note to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth. I said I wonder why Pandit Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi and thousands of other freedom fighters took the trouble of throwing the British out and declaring India independent. So many lives were lost, so much trauma endured on account of the Partition. Wouldn’t it have been easier and more expedient to simply grant Indian citizenship to the British? After all they lived in India for over 300 years. I am sure British wouldn’t have been averse to this if it had ensured the continuance of the Raj.

It’s still not too late. Let’s recall the Brits. At least they proved themselves able administrators. Let’s show the world how truly tolerant and liberal we are. It is of course unlikely that, given our penchant for xenophobia, the Brits would agree. But I’m sure if we apologise to them nicely for our crass “nationalism”, they — like Sonia [Gandhi, the Congress president] — would ultimately relent.

As told to Rachitaa Gupta. This interview has been edited for clarity.

Main photo: Boman Kohinoor with Project India reporter Rachitaa Gupta


The men (and women) you voted for in the first 5 phases

A breakdown of candidates in the first five stages of the election offers a fascinating insight into the declarations made by this year’s Lok Sabha hopefuls. Here’s a data visualisation — the results might surprise you.

Criminal cases

See the proportion of candidates with criminal cases against them by party and by state. The interactive graphics also show those with serious criminal cases – which includes murder, rape and robbery.

Candidate assets

The chart shows assets held by the average party candidate.


The majority of candidates so far have been male (92.7%) – just 7.29% are women.


Now a breakdown of candidates by their educational achievements. Just over half are educated at degree level or above.

Age range

Finally, a wide spread of ages for candidates. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the most common age group is 41-50.

Information on 3,305 of 3,355 candidates was analysed. Data compiled by the Association for Democratic Reforms and National Election Watch, based on sworn affidavits from candidates.

This story was also published on Rediff.com, our media partner.



In a Mumbai constituency, a Congress candidate counts on the poor

Congress politician Priya Dutt at a rally in Mumbai. Photo: Patrick Ward

Against the background of an apparent Bharatiya Janata Party resurgence, it was a chance for the party faithful to rally together. And in the Mumbai north central constituency, Congress members seemed confident that incumbent Priya Dutt could defeat challengers from the BJP and also those who might split the anti-BJP vote — the Aam Aadmi Party and the Samajwadi Party.

The inauguration of the Congress election headquarters saw hundreds of supporters cram into a makeshift meeting place by the side of the road in Kalina, a western Mumbai suburb. There was little applause. But people seemed to welcome the speeches from top party figures, including Dutt herself and Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan.

Before the event, Dutt, the sister of Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt, said the campaign was “very hectic and very good”. She dismissed worries about the challenge from a resurgent BJP, but also the Samajwadi Party and the AAP.

“The AAP won’t make a huge difference,” she said. “This time people are much more aware of what is happening and who they are voting against. They can see the vote is not divided — they are clear-headedly considering their vote.”

Dutt’s rivals are focusing on what they say is her lack of engagement with her largely slum-residing constituents. They claim she has done little to improve conditions in an area in sore need of improved infrastructure.

“I will be honest, all the other candidates don’t live in the area,” she said. “They had nothing else against me. A lot has been in the media in advertising, a lot of negative campaigning.”

Dutt reeled off a list of her regular engagements: Six months a year at the Lok Sabha in Delhi; work for her charitable trust; attending her monthly medical camps; working in her office for four hours a day when she is in Mumbai; listening to her constituents raise concerns at public meetings.

“I fail to see how they corroborate that,” she said of her opponents’ criticisms.

At the rally, Dutt could be seen rushing on and off stage, directing her followers as masses of people pushed to be near the speakers. Lines of white-clothed party volunteers tried to hold crowds in place, sometimes resulting in altercations as people wandered in from the street.

Under floodlights, it seemed that her supporters were as committed as ever — despite the event starting several hours late and more than one scuffle between members of the packed crowd.

Many of those present focused on what they said was the misleading focus on Narendra Modi’s leadership of Gujarat. Abdul Rahim Khan was among the party faithful, having previously worked as a leader in the Youth Congress. He was upbeat after the rally and ready to offer the party line.

“Congress has done a very good job here,” he said. “Most of the development in India comes from Maharashtra.”

He accused the BJP of misleading the public about the so-called Gujarat model of development. “They have paid money to PR campaigns,” he said. “The same progress was done in Maharashtra with a Congress government.

“Modi is similar to Hitler and Goebbels,” he added. “If you say a lie 100 times, and hope it will be true. They want to make a separate India with something special for the majority and nothing for the minority.”

Businessman Imran Khan was also enthusiastic, and shrugged off claims that the SP and AAP could split the Dutt vote.

“People know she is the strongest candidate in this area,” he said. “The election is going very well for us.”

Hitesh Singh, a young Congress supporter, said the focus on a BJP win was because BJP leader Narendra Modi “is hypnotising the people”. He was optimistic of a Congress win, though.

“Our work is going on properly,” he said, adding he was sure local people would see through opposition claims about his candidate.

As the event drew to a close, Chavan was quickly escorted away by his security entourage, shoving aside the assembled mass of well-wishers, reporters and party volunteers.

Dutt was surrounded by supporters. They all made their way into a small room in the headquarters, decked with maps of the area, to plan for the last stretch of the campaign.

As the chairs were collected and people started to drift off home, an older man, Satrikas, remained. “All the people were here today, this is a very important election,” he said.

Did he feel confident of a Congress victory? He shrugged.

“I don’t know who the next prime minister will be.”

Photo: Patrick Ward

This story was also published on Rediff.com, our media partner.


At Murudkar’s in Pune, the festival of democracy is driving sales

At Murudkar's in Pune, the festival of democracy is driving sales. Photo: Deep Venkatesan

Navigating the busy Pune streets in the hot sun is a challenge. No wonder they say if you can drive in Pune you can drive anywhere in the world. As you avoid hawkers in the narrow lanes near Moti Chowk, an orange flag captures your attention. The legend ‘Murudkar Jhendawale’ inscribed in Devanagiri is noticeable.

Owner Girish Murudkar welcomes every political and non-political enthusiast with the same smile and zeal. “This shop was opened by my great-grandfather,” he says with evident pride. “Murudkar is one of the oldest shops in the city that sells paraphernalia for different occasions and festivals.”

All kinds of political merchandise like flags, pluck-cards, caps, badges, uparnas (shawl-like strips of satin), banners, tags, you name it and it is available at Murudkar’s. With Pune’s polling day (April 17) approaching, the shop has witnessed a spike in sales.

Cutting open a small package, Murudkar says, “This is an innovative type of merchandise created by Murudkar’s — aromatic tags with party symbols and names. One can hang these in one’s house or car; the fragrance lasts for up to 25 days.”

With the growing popularity of the Aam Aadmi Party, the Gandhi cap has again become a fashion statement at political rallies. “The demand for different colours and designs has risen more than for normal caps,” he says. “Now every political party wants its own Gandhi topi.” Not surprisingly, the caps, priced between Rs 2 and Rs 5, constitute the single most sold item at Murudkar’s.

One can get various combinations at the shop. “Puneri phetas or pagdis are known across India,” says Murudkar. “We have designed phetas according to every party’s need.” Uparnas are sold for Rs 15-20; phetas start at Rs 800. Prices of party flags vary according to size.

Murudkar’s is not an outlet for the sale of only political paraphernalia. The shop also sells products for specific religious and cultural occasions. But right now, it’s the festival of democracy that is driving sales.

Ask Girish Murudkar about his favourite politician and he refuses to commit himself. All he wants, he says, is “development of the city”. Why, he’s speaking like a politician himself.

Photo: Deepa Venkatesan


Everything you must know about your candidate before you vote tomorrow

On April 17, 122 constituencies will be contested on what is set to be the biggest day of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

Approximately 1,800 candidates will fight for seats from Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jammu and Kashmir, Goa, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Odisha, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.

Over 60% of the seats up are currently held by either Congress or the BJP, which makes Phase 5 crucial in determining the fate of the two main parties.

Use our interactive constituency map to see how your candidate measures up in terms of age, gender, education, wealth, and criminal activity. See Phase 5 constituencies in full screen.

The data used for this interactive map is from National Election Watch and Association for Democratic Reforms, based on the sworn affidavits of the candidates.


The women who want to change Pune

Her electoral symbol is a lady’s purse. Her campaign slogan, My Family, My India. If you ask her what that is about, she will tell you it is about family. About making India safe for families.

It is the rising crime graph that made 33-year-old Rupali Nivruti Tamboli, a commerce graduate and a mother of two, think of contesting the Pune election.

“With increasing rape cases in India, I fear for my children,” says the first-time candidate, who lives in Wadgav Khurd, a locality 37 km from Pune central. “I want to make India safer  for my family and all other families.”

Contesting the Maval seat, Tamboli is one of the three women candidates who will enter the political fray when Pune — the cultural centre of Maharashtra and one-time capital of the Maratha empire – goes to the polls tomorrow in the fifth phase of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

Anil Shirole of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Viswajeet Kadam of the Congress, Deepak Paigude of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, and Subhash Ware of the Aam Aadmi Party may be the known faces, but Tamboli, Sushma Pandurang Gaikwad, and Chhaya Tukaram Bansode are the ones who make empowering women their primary focus.

Every issue faced by citizens must be addressed at the family level, Tambolis says, as this is the smallest unit of the country. She believes an individual can make a difference without joining a party.

“I don’t like the idea of contesting with a party, because everyone has their own goals,” she says.

Like Tamboli, Bansode, a 43-year-old homemaker, is an independent. She contested the Pune Municipal Corporation election in 2012, and has been associated with the NGO ’Jivan Vikas Shikshan Sanstha’. This touch of social work got her to think about the daily struggle of women.

“My aim is to empower women and get them justice,” she says.

Bansode had several discussions with her husband on issues affecting the nation. As power plays a crucial role in finding solutions to these, it seemed logical that she should stand for election. So, with her husband’s encouragement, Bansode entered the fray from the Wadgaonsheri constituency.

With no political organisation to back them, independents like Bansode and Tamboli  often have little scope to promise the public anything. But Bansode seems unfazed.

“A candidate with no political support works fearlessly and raises issues on his own,” she says. Her electoral symbol is the pressure cooker. Underlining the significance of the symbol, she says, “A pressure cooker helps women and works instantly in the kitchen. Being a homemaker, I understand the feelings of women and the tough times they go through. I will work the same way the cooker works and gives a helping hand to women.”

Sushma Pandurang Gaikwad, a 48-year-old social worker, is the third woman candidate in the city. She contests Shivaji Nagar.

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