2019 Lok Sabha elections: Top leaders to hold rallies in Maharashtra for phase 4
With elections in almost two-third of Maharashtra over, all four parties are focusing on the 17 seats that go to polls in the fourth phase on April 29, with emphasis on Mumbai, which has six constituencies. Result? Mega rallies of all top leaders have been planned in the city and different parts of the state.
Several high-profile seats and candidates are in the fray in the 10 seats in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) and the remaining in parts of north and western Maharashtra. There is a direct fight between the BJP-Sena and Congress-NCP in Mumbai and the other seats. The BJP had won eight, and the Sena nine seats. While retaining the seats is a challenge for the saffron combine, the Congress and NCP are leaving no stone unturned to regain lost ground.
In 2014, thanks to the Modi wave, the BJP-Sena won all six seats in Mumbai with a significant margin. This time, it faces a tough contest from the Congress, which has put its act together after the infighting among city leaders. As a result, all top leaders in the state have begun campaigning in areas surrounding these constituencies. They have only two days — Friday and Saturday – left to campaign for their candidates.
On Friday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi will be holding rallies at different places in the state. PM Modi will hold a public rally at BKC ground in Mumbai and Gandhi will hold a public rally at Sangamner. It is expected to cover two Lok Sabha seats — Shirdi and Nashik. The Congress president was expected to hold a road show in Mumbai, which didn’t materialise.
NCP chief Sharad Pawar has planned two meetings each on Friday and Saturday. On Friday, he will hold public meetings at Manpada (Thane) and another in Thane city. On Saturday, he is holding public meetings at Satana for Nashik constituency and another at Borivli for Mumbai North seat. Of the 17 seats, the Congress is contesting nine, the NCP seven and their ally Bahujan Vikas Aghadi (BVA) is contesting one — Palghar seat.
Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray is also attending Modi’s Mumbai rally and will hold another rally at Palghar for his candidate, Rajendra Gavit, on Saturday. The party has got the seat from the BJP for this election.
In Mumbai South Lok Sabha constituency, sitting Sena MP Arvind Sawant is facing Congress candidate and party’s Mumbai president Milind Deora for the second consecutive time. In Mumbai North West, sitting Sena MP Gajanan Kirtikar and former MP and Congress candidate Sanjay Nirupam are contesting against each other. In Mumbai North Central, sitting BJP MP Poonam Mahajan is facing a competition from former MP Priya Dutt. Mumbai North constituency is facing another big fight, where sitting BJP MP Gopal Shetty will have to defend the party’s bastion against Bollywood actor Urmila Matondkar contesting on a Congress ticket. In Maval constituency, sitting Sena MP Shrirang Barne is facing a tough fight against Parth Pawar, a third-generation member from NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s family. He is the son of former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar. Interestingly, the NCP chief was not keen on giving a ticket to Parth, but eventually gave in to family pressure.
Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis is also holding rallies in Shirdi, Shirur, Dindori, Nashik and in Mumbai in the next two days. So far, he has held 88 rallies.
The ruling combine is also wary of the impact Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray would have on voters. Thackeray has been addressing rallies, targeting PM Modi and BJP. The saffron combine is assessing if the Marathi speaking voter, who is the biggest group in all constituencies in Mumbai, gets split between the BJP-Sena and Congress-NCP owing to Thackeray’s campaign. Thackeray is holding a rally in Nashik on Friday, where the party enjoys a stronghold. Besides, the biggest tribal belt in Maharashtra that comes under Nandurbar and Dindori constituencies and some part of Dhule constituency. The tribal belt was traditionally a Congress stronghold, but the BJP performed well here in the Lok Sabha as well as Assembly polls in 2014. Retaining the three seats would reaffirm BJP’s hold over the area.
Political expert Prakash Bal said, “Although the BJP-Sena combine claims they will retain their position, poll results will be different this time. In my view, the saffron parties are losing many seats and the Congress-NCP front will do better.”