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2019 Lok Sabha election : BJP-Sena faces tough task to retain 17 seats won in Maharashtra

Most of the 17 constituencies, including six in Mumbai, are in urban areas where the BJP and Sena enjoy good support.

lok sabha elections Updated: Apr 29, 2019 01:25 IST
Surendra P Gangan
Surendra P Gangan
Hindustan Times
Lok Sabha elections,Maharashtra Lok Sabha elections,BJP
The saffron combine has, according to popular perception, performed fairly when it comes to urban infrastructure, owing to ongoing Metro projects, proposed coastal road and Mumbai Trans -Harbour Link, among others. (HT File)

The fourth and final phase of the Lok Sabha elections in Maharashtra is the most important one for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-Shiv Sena alliance as it had won all 17 seats that go to polls on Monday, in the 2014 elections.

Although the combine is unlikely to retain all constituencies, it has pulled out all stops in trying to retain most of them. Most of the 17 constituencies, including six in Mumbai, are in urban areas where the BJP and Sena enjoy good support.

While the two parties proved their dominance in Mumbai in the 2017 civic elections, Sena is the dominant force in Thane and Kalyan. In this backdrop, the saffron alliance is looking to retaining most of the 10 seats in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR).

Political observers, however, feel amid the waning of the Modi wave, it would be difficult for the alliance to match their 2014 performance. The saffron combine has, according to popular perception, performed fairly when it comes to urban infrastructure, owing to ongoing Metro projects, proposed coastal road and Mumbai Trans -Harbour Link, among others.

Mumbai is likely to witness a close fight in at least three to four constituencies. In Mumbai South, sitting Sena MP Arvind Sawant faces a tough fight against city Congress president Milind Deora. Mumbai North Central will see a close contest between sitting BJP MP Poonam Mahajan and Congress’s Priya Dutt. Sanjay Dina Patil (NCP) and Manoj Kotak (BJP) are locked in a neck-to-neck fight in Mumbai North East. In Mumbai South Central, Sena MP Rahul Shewale and Congress candidate Eknath Gaikwad are fighting it out.

The contest is interesting in the other two seats too. Actor-turned-politician Urmila Matondkar (Congress) has put up a challenge before BJP’s Gopal Shetty who had won the 2014 elections by more than 4.75 lakh votes. In Mumbai North West, the fight is between sitting Sena MP Gajanan Kirtikar and Congress’s Sanjay Nirupam. Another interesting fight would be in Maval, where NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s grand-nephew Parth is locked in an electoral battle with sitting Sena MP Shrirang Barne.

“It is obvious that our alliance is likely to suffer more losses in rural areas and to make up for that, the focus was on urban seats. Congress had a lack of influential campaigning and an efficient organisational set-up in Mumbai, while its ally NCP does not have any presence in the city. This would help us win most of the seats in Mumbai,” said a BJP leader, on condition of anonymity.

The leader admitted that in western and north Maharashtra, the opposition has posed a serious challenge. Nandurbar, Dhule, Maval and Dindori are the seats that can witness a reversal of results. Nandurbar, Dindori have significance presence of tribal voters who are unhappy with the ruling parties over reservation issues.

Political analyst Pratap Asbe said although BJP-Sena will have an edge over the opposition in MMR, it won’t retain all seats. “It would not be a cakewalk for the ruling combine, as there is no Modi wave this time. It may lose a couple of seats, including Mumbai South and North East , while the margin in other seats will reduce. Congress could not give its 100% and failed to organise rallies by Rahul or Priyanka Gandhi and this will affect them badly.,”he said.

“Like in the three earlier phases, we will perform well in the fourth phase by winning all 17 seats. This phase, particularly, will prove the end of the Congress-NCP combine in the regions going to polls. We will once again prove our mettle in Mumbai and its suburbs,” said Atul Bhatkhalkar, BJP MLA and spokesperson.

Congress leader and former state chief Manikrao Thakre said they hope for victory in at least 10 of the 17 seats. “Congress will win at least six seats, including Dhule, Nandurbar, while NCP has better chances of winning Mumbai North East, both seats in Nashik and Maval,” he said.

First Published: Apr 29, 2019 01:25 IST