Comprising 39 assembly constituencies, the Konkan region was perceived a cakewalk for the saffron combine. But, with the multi-cornered contests, the region has split wide open, giving local satraps and small regional parties a reason to cheer.
The one region that is likely bear the brunt of the Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) split is the Konkan.
Comprising 39 assembly constituencies, the Konkan region was perceived a cakewalk for the saffron combine. The Sena has a huge presence in urban Thane and coastal belt of Konkan, while the BJP is picking up in Palghar and Thane rural belts.
But, with the multi-cornered contests, the region has split wide open, giving local satraps and small regional parties a reason to cheer.
On the ground, desperate attempts are being made by Sena and BJP workers, especially in 15 constituencies across Raigad, Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg districts, to reach out to senior leaders from both camps to have a local patch up and prevent split in votes. The significance of the region can be gauged from the fact that the last time the Sena-BJP won seats in the Konkan belt in 1995, they came to power.
For over two years, the saffron combine had been working to get the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) out of the region, and trying to put up a tough fight against heavyweights such as Congress leader Narayan Rane in Sindhudurg, NCP’s Bhaskar Jadhav in Ratnagiri and Sunil Tatkare in Raigad districts.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the saffron parties swept this region with BJP getting two parliamentary constituencies of Palghar and Bhiwandi, while Sena won four seats —Thane, Kalyan, Raigad, and Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg.
This was despite the NCP having 10 Assembly seats and the presence of strong regional parties like Peasants and Workers Party (PWP) in Raigad and Bahujan Vikas Aghadi (BVA) in Palghar, who have five Assembly seats.
But now with the change in political equations, the Konkan story will read differently.
Rane was worried till last week, as he needed to ensure a win not only for himself in Kudal constituency, but also for son Nitesh in nearby Kankavali.
“The people of Konkan realised they made a mistake during the LS polls, and it was the Modi wave. This time they will bring me back, as they have seen the true colours of the Sena and BJP,” said Rane, who is pitted against Sena’s Vaibhav Naik.
While Nitesh’s constituency is a BJP hold, Rane hopes that the saffron votes will split between Sena leader Subhash Mayekar and BJP MLA Pramod Jathar.
Till recently, the Sena was confident of winning the Sawantwadi seat, especially after legislator Deepak Kesarkar rebelled from NCP and joined them. But he seems to have got cold feet with Rajan Teli, a Rane supporter, fighting on a BJP ticket.
In nearby Ratnagiri district, where it has a stronghold, the Sena was hoping to wrest control from the NCP by winning all five seats. The party made all the right noises — it opposed the Jaitapur plant and mining activities.
With sitting legislators in Dapoli, Rajapur and Chiplun, and gaining an upper hand with NCP minister Uday Samant joining the party, the Sena was anticipating a clean sweep, but not anymore.
“They might still get seats, but it will mean a lot of work and convincing BJP Marathi Brahmin voters in areas like Guhagar, Ratnagiri and Chiplun,” a local leader said.
The split, however, has come as a saviour for local parties like the PWP in Raigad, which is likely to retain the three seats it holds.