It’ll be a toss-up between withholding a legacy and promise of development for the Thane voters, this assembly polls.
As the 70% of voters in Thane are Marathi-speaking, it remains to be seen if they will answer Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray’s call for Marathi pride or will be wooed by Narendra Modi’s promise of development.
Thane city has always been a Sena fort, but after the Sena-BJP split, it looks like the main fight will be between these two parties.
In 2009, all three constituencies in Thane city voted for the Sena and even showed former NCP MP Sanjeev Naik the door during the 2014 Lok Sabha.
All eyes are now on senior Sena leader Eknath Shinde, who represents the Kopri-Pachpakhadi constituency spanning from Thane (East) to Wagle Estate. He might face tough competition from BJP’s Sandeep Lele, this time around.
In Owla-Majiwada, sitting Sena legislator Pratap Sarnaik, a rich builder who follows the open door policy, seems to be the popular candidate. But with municipal corporator Sanjay Pandey of BJP fielded against him, Sarnaik’s worry has increased.
The main action, however, will be in Thane city — from Station Road to Hiranandani Estate and Ghodbunder Road — which was so far held by MP Rajan Vichare of the Shiv Sena.
Ravi Fatak, a Congress rebel, is Sena’s candidate and this has given rise to internal bickering. BJP’s candidate Sanjay Kelkar, a former legislator is a known face, and is likely to appeal to the huge Marathi Brahmin community. NCP too has played it clever by fielding Niranjan Davkhare, a young Thaneite, who is an MLC and Vasant Davkhare’s son. He just might gain from the Sena-BJP fight.
But the MP of the Kalyan constituency, Shrikant Shinde, Eknath Shinde’s son and one of Sena’s chief strategists, rubbishes this theory. “For the Marathi-speaking people hurting the sentiments of Balasaheb is not acceptable. No wave will work in front of that,” he says.
Niranajan, 35, says one cannot ignore the youth, who want to see further development. “I am a Thaneite and I have a development plan for the city. This is my USP,” he says.
Millind Ballal, the editor of the local newspaper Thane Vaibhav, points out that the new equations have turned the tables for all parties.
“There are some legislators like Shinde or Sarnaik who are sitting legislators, known faces and have done some work. MNS is not a factor now. But one cannot ignore the fact that there are huge number of BJP voters and since they have never been counted separately, we do not know how things will pan out,” he says.