Minister of Excise and Unconventional Energy, Ganesh Naik, is aiming to win the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation for the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) for the third consecutive time.
Voting will be held on Sunday and results will be announced on Monday. Naik, the local strongman, is facing a challenge from the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party alliance.
The Congress, which has been at loggerheads with the NCP in Navi Mumbai despite their alliance in the state and Centre, wants to get even. The entry of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, Samajwadi Party and Republican Party of India-Left combine has made it a tough contest.
Naik has ruled Navi Mumbai since the early 1990s, when he was in the Sena. He was one of the first to quit the Sena. He joined the NCP and despite a loss in the 1999 Assembly polls he bounced back with a record margin in the 2004 elections.
Naik has since ensured the municipal corporation remains with the NCP. He also managed to get his older son, Sanjeev Naik, elected to the Lok Sabha in 2009. Younger son, Sandeep, was elected to the corporation in 2005 and served as its Standing Committee chairman for three consecutive years. Last year, Sandeep was elected to the Assembly from Airoli. Naik, himself, got re-elected from Belapur.
If the Opposition does not upset Naik’s applecart this time, it will not get a chance for another four years. Builder and BJP leader Suresh Haware, who lost to Naik in the Assembly polls, has tied up with the Sena. The BJP’s sole coporator has also moved to the Naik camp.
The polls are also crucial for local Sena chief, Vijay Chougule. Once a staunch Naik loyalist, Chougule was defeated by Naik’s sons in the 2009 polls. He wants to make a point. Local Congressmen had rebelled in the Assembly polls with Navi Mumbai Congress President, Namdeo Bhagat, contesting against Naik.
The NCP is confident of victory with promises such as infrastructure development of the city and 24-hour water supply at nominal rates. While the Congress seeks credit for infrastructure built by CIDCO, the Sena-BJP alliance has raised corruption issue, accusing Naik clan of corruption in the civic body.