With barely a week left for the Bandra (East) assembly constituency bypolls on April 11, the standoff between sworn enemies -- Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and Congress leader Narayan Rane -- has intensified.
The contest between Congress candidate Rane and Sena’s Trupti Sawant, the widow of sitting MLA Prakash Sawant, who died of cancer last year, is a tough one. While both Rane and Thackeray have so far avoided attacking each other directly, they are aware that the outcome of this election will be a deciding factor in their political plans.
For Rane, who was defeated on his homeground Malvan in last year’s Assembly elections, winning the seat in a constituency that houses Uddhav Thackeray, and which the Sena has won in the last two assembly polls, will be a resurrection of sorts. Also, after his son’s massive drubbing in Konkan, the victory will help him regain his standing in state politics. Rane’s win will mean a breakthrough for the desperate Congress, which has been getting former MPs and party leaders to his rallies every day. It could also get him the post of the Opposition leader in the state Assembly, as the party’s state leadership is not happy with the current Opposition leader, Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, who rarely attacks ruling parties on the floor of the Assembly.
In case of Uddhav, the win will send out a message that his party is on firm ground ahead of the civic polls in early 2017. Also, in case it loses, the Sena could blame the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – which came a close second in the 2014 Assembly elections in the constituency -- for backstabbing, leading to even more bitterness between the two warring allies.
With the NCP, BJP and the MNS staying out of the fray, the odds seem to be in favour of the Sena, as the late Bala Sawant had polled 40,884 votes, 15,000 more than the BJP. Also, a survey of the constituency suggests all is not rosy for Rane. The constituency largely consists of Marathi-speaking population, people from Konkan and minority voters.
While Rane is hopeful of wining the minority votes and a large chunk of Konkan voters, as he belongs to the region, the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen’s Rahbar Khan could divide the minority votes. In the 2014 Assembly elections, the MIM was ahead of Congress in Bandra (East) and had stood third after the Sena and BJP, polling 19,856 votes.