This election season, Mumbai’s major political parties — BJP, Shiv Sena, Congress, NCP and MNS — are all contesting without alliances, on their own. To better their chances, the parties have pitted heavyweights against each other, and have also given wives and sons tickets.
The battle for 31 seats will be especially intense. The list of bigwigs includes two former MLAs and relatives of city MPs and MLAs. Even senior office-bearers of parties have jumped into the fray. The parties have given tickets to relatives of sitting corporators who have taken the responsibility of bringing in votes.
To wrest control of the prestigious Dadar-Shivaji Park ward in the Marathi heartland, the Shiv Sena has fielded Vishakha Raut, a former mayor and former Dadar MLA. The MNS won this seat in the 2012 elections, the Sena wants it back now. It has fielded Raut opposite MNS’ Swapna Deshpande, wife of sitting MNS corporator Sandeep Deshpande. Swapna was a bureaucrat who, after retirement, joined politics.
In 220, which covers Nal Bazaar and Kamathipura, the BJP has fielded Atul Shah, a former MLA who lost the 2014 Assembly polls. Shah will give close contest to Surendra Bagalkar, the sitting corporator from Sena. The Sena has got its old guard back — two vibhag pramukhs, Mangesh Satamkar and Ashish Chemburkar, who had moved on to contest Assembly polls in 2014.
Rahul Shewale, Sena MP from Mumbai south central parliamentary constituency, is launching his wife, Kamini, from ward 144. The BJP’s Anita Panchal, the wife of Dinesh Panchal, a sitting corporator who left the Sena will contest here. In Andheri, the Sena has fielded Devendra Ambekar, former leader of opposition who left the Congress. Ambekar will fight BJP’s Rohan Rathod, brother-in-law of party MLA Amit Satam. Indrapal Sabbarwal is the Congress candidate on this seat. Ward 60 (Lokhandwala and Millat Nagar) will see an interesting fight as two sitting corporators and the nephew of an MLA are contesting against each other.
Jyotsna Dighe, sitting Congress corporator, will fight Yashodhar Phanse, a sitting Sena corporator, and BJP candidate Yograj Dabhalkar, nephew of BJP MLA Bharti Lavhekar. Another tough competition is likely in ward 132 in Ghatkopar, where Opposition leader Pravin Chheda (Congress) will face-off with Parag Shah, a BJP heavyweight, also the head of the Mumbai Jain Mahasangh.
The Jain community has a significant presence in Gujarati-dominated Ghatkopar. The Sena has fielded Marathi candidate Sudhakar Patil. BJP’s city vice-president Bhalchandra Shirsat will get tough competition from Mangal Bhanushali, who was heading the Gujarati cell of BJP until recently. Bhanushali shifted loyalty to Sena after being denied a ticket. Samadhan Sarvankar, son of Sena MLA Sada Sarvankar, is likely to face a serious threat from party rebel Mahesh Sawant who has filed his candidature as independent candidate from ward 194. The area that covers Prabhadevi and adjoining areas is dominated by Marathi speaking people.