Fadnavis, Shelar, Tawde, Narwekar likely Lok Sabha candidates in Mumbai
The South Mumbai seat is quite difficult to win, as it comprises a variety of voter classes: from elite Malabar Hill to the slums in Parel and Kalachowki; from the typical pro-BJP Gujarati-speaking voters to Sena-supporting Marathi people in central Mumbai
Mumbai: After a recent survey to gauge the BJP’s prospects in the Lok Sabha elections projected a not-too-good scenario in Maharashtra, the party plans to field bigwigs in order to improve its chances. Deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, BJP Mumbai chief Ashish Shelar, national general secretary Vinod Tawde and assembly speaker Rahul Narwekar are likely to be among a dozen heavyweights chosen for the job.
According to inside information, Fadnavis could be fielded from the Mumbai North-East constituency while Shelar is likely to replace the party’s Mumbai North-Central MP Poonam Mahajan. The party was considering Bollywood actress Raveena Tandon but the leadership felt that Shelar was a better bet to win this relatively tough seat. Tawde could be fielded from Mumbai North, the most favourable city seat for the party, while Narwekar is the first choice for Mumbai South.
“The South Mumbai seat is quite difficult to win, as it comprises a variety of voter classes: from elite Malabar Hill to the slums in Parel and Kalachowki; from the typical pro-BJP Gujarati-speaking voters to Sena-supporting Marathi people in central Mumbai,” said another senior party leader. “Apart from Narwekar, Mangal Prabhat Lodha is a probable candidate but he is unlikely to be accepted by the voters in chawls and dilapidated buildings dominated by the Marathi-speaking community. Narwekar is the perfect candidate for the constituency.”
The party’s disgruntled OBC face Pankaja Munde is likely to be fielded from Beed in place of her two-term sitting MP sister Pritam Munde. The party has, however, not been able to find a suitable candidate for the Pune seat and is considering higher and technical education minister Chandrakant Patil if it cannot come up with someone better.
Two senior ministers are also in the fray. Rural development minister Girish Mahajan could be picked for the Raver constituency in Jalgaon where Raksha Khadse, daughter-in-law of NCP leader Eknath Khadse, is the party’s sitting legislator. Forest minister and senior party leader Sudhir Mungantiwar is likely to be the choice for Chandrapur.
Mahajan, however, was not keen on contesting the seat, said a leader from Jalgaon. “He has conveyed to the party leadership that Raksha Khadse be renominated, as two dominant communities in the district, the Gurjars and Leva-Patils, support her,” he said. “Raksha is a Gurjar married to a Leva Patil, while Mahajan, who is Gurjar, may not get support from the Leva Patils.” Significantly, the Sharad Pawar-led faction of the NCP is likely to field Eknath Khadse, who is a prominent Leva-Patil leader, from the region.
The BJP’s most momentous decision will be with regard to Fadnavis, who is literally anchoring the alliance government in the state. While it is already known in the party and the state’s political circles that Fadnavis will shift to national politics at some point, the first indication from the party has come now. Fadnavis will reportedly contest from Mumbai North-East, which covers the eastern suburbs from Mulund to Chembur and is currently represented by party MP Manoj Kotak.
“Interestingly, though, none of the state leaders are interested in the proposed shift to Delhi,” said a senior party leader. “All of them are determined to remain in state politics and become ministers if the party regains power after the assembly polls next year. Most of them have already conveyed this to the central leadership but it will be of no use. The leadership is determined to field bigwigs who have been active in state politics for years in order to better the party’s prospects in the Lok Sabha polls.”
Pankaja Munde recently said that she would not want to replace her younger sister as a Lok Sabha candidate, as she was interested in state politics. Similarly Fadnavis and even Shelar are not very keen on contesting the Lok Sabha polls.
According to a BJP leader, the party had planned to keep seniors like Chandrakant Patil, Mungantiwar and Mahajan out of the state cabinet, asking them instead to dedicate themselves to preparations for the Lok Sabha polls. “The plan was dropped and the leaders were inducted into the cabinet on condition that they would have to prepare for the Lok Sabha polls,” said the leader.
In the surveys conducted by the BJP through independent agencies, it has been projected to win 24 to 28 seats along with its ruling allies. The tally is much lower than the 42 seats it won in 2019 along with its then ally, the undivided Shiv Sena. The BJP won 23 seats and the Sena 18. Of those 18 Sena MPs, 13 are with the Shinde camp.