Winning the Shrivardhan constituency in Raigad district is a tough challenge for 35-year-old Avadhoot Tatkare. Victory for the young president of Roha municipal council doesn’t just mean a seat in the state’s legislative Assembly. It will signify that the writ of his uncle – Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) state chief Sunil Tatkare – still runs in the region.
Avadhoot, who is contesting from his uncle’s seat, is fighting a huge anti-incumbency wave. In a district that has seen rapid – and lopsided development – some locals feel the NCP has not adequately represented their interests. However, Avadhoot appears confident, making light of the challenges posed by Ravi Munde, a local Kunbi leader of the Shiv Sena, and Uday Kathe of the Congress.
“My father and uncle both are legislators and my mother was a member of Kolad zilla parishad. We have a good hold over the constituency. The biggest issue here is unemployment, which I will concentrate on by boosting tourism,” said Avadhoot.
However, recent developments in the constituency of Shrivardhan may have queered the pitch for him. Ulhas Kambli, a farmer and part-time waiter at a local restaurant and a resident of Kolad, says, “If Sunil Tatkare or his daughter stood for elections, it was different, we love him, he respects everyone. This boy does not have any appeal here and the Shiv Sena has made an impact locally.”
Raigadh has always been split on the issue of commercial development, with widespread opposition to the planned Reliance SEZ in 2009 and the recent hurdles to land acquisitions in Uran and Panvel for the Navi Mumbai airport project.
This explains why mainstream parties like Shiv Sena and Congress have one seat each in this area, the NCP two, while the Peasants and Workers Party (PWP) has three seats.
“Senior leaders of the region did not pay attention to issues like the chemical pollution in MIDCs, drinking water problems, among others. Just getting an airport in the region is not something locals want. The rice fields have gone down by half, children are fleeing to Mumbai and other areas for work,” said Raigad-based former journalist Chandrakant Kokane.
Sunil Tatkare feels otherwise. “The Navi Mumbai airport has taken off. The Mumbai-Goa highway four-laning is in progress. People recognise our work,” he said.
Meanwhile, in Uran, Alibaug and Pen, where the PWP has its legislators, the political map is slowly changing.
While local Local PWP MLA of Uran, Vivek Patil, got 17 villages on board for the Navi Mumbai airport project, senior party leader Jayant Patil’s flip-flops on first supporting Sena, then MNS in the Lok Sabha election confused the voters.
“PWP was seen as a pro-farmer and people party, but with such changes in the stand of local leaders, we now have no clue what they stand for,” said Naina Ranpise, 62, who has accepted the government’s compensation package for the Navi Mumbai airport