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Tuesday, Nov 19, 2019

Saffron allies set to win in Thane, again

cities Updated: Oct 19, 2019 00:53 IST

The four Assembly constituencies in Thane are set for a direct fight between the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alliance and the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) combine in the upcoming Maharashtra Assembly elections. The BJP-Sena alliance, however, seems to be confident of a win as Thane is largely a saffron stronghold, apart from the Kalwa-Mumbra seat.

In the 2014 Maharashtra Assembly elections, the Sena had won two constituencies here, while the BJP and NCP had won one each. All sitting MLAs have been re-nominated by their parties this time.

While senior Sena leader and state health minister Eknath Shinde will be seeking re-election from Kopri Panchpakhadi constituency against Congress’s Sanjay Ghadigaonkar and MNS’s Mahesh Kadam, in Kalwa-Mumbra, sitting NCP MLA Jitendra Awhad, who’s seeking a third term, is up against actor Deepali Sayyad, a Sena candidate.

In Thane city, BJP MLA Sanjay Kelkar is contesting against MNS’s city unit chief Avinash Jadhav, who has got support from the Congress and the NCP, while in Ovala-Majiwada, Sena’s Pratap Sarnaik is pitted against Congress’s Vikrant Chavan. Of these, the contests in Thane city and Kalwa-Mumbra seem to have grabbed eyeballs.

Sandeep Pradhan, a senior editor of a leading daily in the city, said the entire candidature in Thane hints at a friendly relationship between the leaders of the two prime parties. “The Sena has pitted Sayyad against NCP’s Awhad. But like him, she does not know the constituency at all. The NCP has stayed away from Kopri-Panchpakhadi and has given the seat to the Congress, which has no presence in the ward. The NCP has tied up with the MNS in Thane city, though there is a slim chance of it affecting the BJP’s chances,” Pradhan said.

The Sena had scored a landslide victory in Thane in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, which has boosted its confidence this time. Sarnaik, who is contesting from Ovala Majiwada, said, “This year, heavy rainfall has damaged the roads this year. We are working to ensure residents have good roads before Diwali. Sena MP Rajan Vichare got the most votes from this constituency and so we are sure of success this time too.”

MNS’s city unit president and Thane city candidate Jadhav, however, is confident the NCP support will have a major impact on his rival, sitting MLA Sanjay Kelkar’s chances. “Last year, the NCP got 48,000 votes even amid the Modi wave. Even if we get the same number of votes, it will dent the BJP’s plan,” he said.

Another political analyst said that apart from the traditional Marathi-speaking crowd, a young crowd has emerged in the city, who do not have the same connect with the Sena. “They are young couples who settle in the city from other states or cities. This crowd does not have a similar connect with the Sena, though they might favour the BJP. Here is where the alliance will come into play,” the analyst said.

Thane has around 14 lakh voters. It is recognised as a dormitory city — people have homes here, but go to Mumbai for work. Over the years, the city has grown to become a cosmopolitan hub with the real estate booming along both sides of the eastern express highway and Ghodbunder Road. Bad roads, inefficient public transport, lack of parking facilities, increase in illegal constructions, pollution, water crisis and traffic issues in Mumbra, Kalwa, Thane city and Ghodbunder Road are some of the problems plaguing Thane.

Prajakt Bhagwat, 44, a resident of Vijay Annex at Waghbil, Thane, said, “The condition of Ghodbunder Road is so pathetic that no commuter feels safe travelling on it. The road is under the state’s jurisdiction and no effort has been taken to repair it. The patch of service road which comes under forest land, too, is still incomplete.”

Pradhan said most of the issues at the local level are unlikely to affect the saffron alliance. “The government’s strategy for the elections is that people think these are small issues compared to other national ones. The election is not fought keeping in mind the local issues, but national ones.”