State minister and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Ganesh Naik seems to be the main target in Navi Mumbai these Assembly polls.
Naik, who is himself contesting from Belapur constituency, will face 26 opponents including top builder and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate Suresh Haware, and Navi Mumbai Congress president Namdeo Bhagat, a rebel, contesting as a Navi Mumbai Vikas Aghadi candidate.
Naik’s younger son Sandeep, the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) standing committee chairman, is contesting from Airoli.
His opponents include Shiv Sena’s Navi Mumbai chief Vijay Chougule who had lost the Lok Sabha elections to Naik’s older son, Sanjeev, in April.
The fight in Navi Mumbai is to end Naik’s hold over the city.
Haware said: “Navi Mumbai wants change now.”
Chougule said: “That Ganesh Naik is not contesting against me is in itself a huge victory
The Congressmen in the area too have turned against Naik. Upset over being denied a seat from both the Assembly constituencies of Navi Mumbai, Navi Mumbai Congress Committee (NMCC) members and 16 Congress corporators in the NMMC have resigned.
They have formed the Navi Mumbai Vikas Aghadi, which has fielded Bhagat.
“We are not rebelling against the party. We are only following the diktat of the Congress workers who are hurt,” said Bhagat.
“We helped Ganesh Naik’s son Sanjeev win the Lok Sabha elections. The NCP should have given us one seat here.” Naik has refused to comment on the Congress’ rebellion.
“I derive my strength from the people. They have accepted my ideals and supported my work,” he said, responding to his saffron opponents.
“As long as I continue to work in their interest, I know they will be with me.”
Santosh Shetty, a Congress corporator from Nerul, said: “While we are fighting to win, our objective is also to ensure Ganesh Naik’s defeat.”
Deputy Mayor Ramakant Mhatre said this was a fight for the “existence of Congress in the region”.
“There is no question of going back on our decision now. We have resorted to this step after exploring all avenues.”