The wrath of the people of Ratnagiri against the proposed nuclear plant at Jaitapur, which was one of the major issues in the Lok Sabha elections and even contributed to the toppling of Congress heavyweight Narayan Rane’s son Nilesh from his MP seat in Ratnagiri, doesn’t even feature in political discussions about the district today.
The eight-year-old war in Jaitapur, which grabbed international headlines after a local Muslim fisherman Tabrez was shot dead by policemen, seems to have dissipated today. The death of Janhit Seva Samiti leader Pravin Gavankar, who spearheaded the movement against the nuclear project, seems to have slowed down the momentum of the movement considerably.
The Ratnagiri district consists of five constituencies, three with Sena and two with the NCP. While contests in this coastal belt were traditionally fought between Shiv Sena and NCP, this time the split between alliances has changed equations. Moreover, Amjad Borkar, who had once led fishermen against the project and played a big role in Sena’s Lok Sabha win, has now joined the BJP.
The main contest is in Ratnagiri, which has assumed the nature of an ego war between BJP and Sena. Bal Mane, BJP candidate for Ratnagiri, is giving a tough fight to former minister Uday Samant, who got an AB form from Shiv Sena on the last day. “My decision was purely political. I was facing a lot of problems locally from the NCP and the only solution was to join Sena. The way sainiks have joined my campaign is amazing,” said Samant.
But Mane thinks Samant’s optimism is misplaced. “I have stood by Sena and Sainiks in Lok Sabha and these ties don’t break just like that. People inside the Sena and NCP are both unhappy with Samant,” he said. Sources say PM Narendra Modi’s last rally in Ratnagiri on Monday might change Mane’s fortunes.
In Dapoli and Chiplun, Sena has two four-time sitting legislators Suryakant Dalvi and Sadanand Chavan respectively. These veterans are so confident of a win that there is hardly any active campaigning.
Dalvi, who led with 40,000 votes in 2009, will be facing NCP’s local strongman Sanjay Kadam, BJP’s Brahmin candidate Kedar Sathe, and MNS’ youth leader Vaibhav Khedekar. In Chiplun, Chavan will face resistance from NCP’s Shekhar Nikam.
The only seat where NCP is confident of a win is that of minister Bhaskar Jadhav in Guhagar, where he will face BJP’s Dr Vinay Natu, who may benefit from the anti-incumbency factor.
In Jaitapur, which is part of the Rajapur constituency, things seem to be in favour of the Sena. “We are not supporting the project and will go by the people’s wishes,” said Rajan Salvi, Sena legislator from Rajapur. Digging deeper into what changed since BJP came to power at the Centre, there seems to be another story in the making. “The land has been acquired, now but we are still with the people. There is still no uranium in sight, nor are there any agreements. If it’ s only an issue of getting employment, we can bring in a railway wagon factory here, with imported technology. That way we will provide employment and be environment-friendly too,” said Mane, who got Borkar on board.