Saffron or the Opposition – which wave will rise in Maharashtra’s coastal Konkan?According to political observers, the saffron alliance, especially the Shiv Sena, is going strong in the region, even without the 2014’s Modi wave. While the Central and state governments’ decisions and infrastructure development may benefit the ruling alliance, the Sena’s arm-twisting of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which led to the Nanar oil refinery project at Ratnagiri being scrapped, has impressed a majority of voters.The five districts in the Konkan region has six Lok Sabha constituencies – Thane, Kalyan, and Bhiwandi in Thane district, and Palghar, Raigad and Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg. The Sena will contest five seats, while the Nationalist Congress Party, Congress, and the BJP will contest three, two and one seats, respectively.In 2014, the Sena won all four seats – Thane, Kalyan, Raigad and Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg – it contested, while the BJP won the remaining two, Bhiwandi and Palghar, decimating the Congress-NCP alliance in the region.ISSUE AND DEMANDSInfrastructure development, better connectivity, jobs for the youth, primary medical facilities, especially in rural parts, are expected to dominate Palghar. According to Palghar-based tribal activist Vinod Dumada, tribals in Palghar’s Vikramgadh, Jawhar and Mokhada still battle malnutrition and infant mortality. “Better medical care is key,” he said.Areas bordering the financial capital are seeing the fastest growth in the country, mainly owing to high property rates in Mumbai. Residents of these areas, including Thane, Bhiwandi, Kalyan, Mira-Bhayander, Vasai-Virar and Boisar, seek better transportation and growth in infrastructure to reduce their travel time. The government has announced several infrastructure projects in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region to connect Mumbai to other adjoining areas. CONSTITUENCIES AND CONTESTIn the alliance deal, the Sena insisted on getting the Palghar Lok Sabha. Although the Sena is yet to announce its candidate, it is expected to pick between former BJP MP Chintaman Wanga’s son Shrinivas and sitting BJP MP Rajendra Gavit. The Bahujan Vikas Aghadi (BVA) is likely to repeat Baliram Jadhav, former MP from the constituency. The BVA has a strong presence in Vasai-Virar and Nalla Sopara, the areas close to Mumbai. Hitendra Thakur, who heads the BVA, has not announced the candidate yet, but has the backing of the Congress-NCP and also the CPI(M), which has considerable presence in the tribal areas of Palghar.In the 2018 bypoll, the Sena and BJP contested against each other. Sena candidate Shrinivas Wanga, lost by a margin of 29,572 votes. “There is a section of BJP workers that is unhappy with the BJP for giving up the seat. Looking at the by-poll results, and that BJP and Sena are in an alliance, the Sena candidate seems to be a frontrunner in the 2019 election,” said Dumada. In Thane, which is considered one of the bastions of the Shiv Sena, the party looks strong. With a strong cadre in the constituency, Sena candidate Rajan Vichare is looking to retain his seat against NCP’s Anand Paranjpe who contested the 2014 election from Kalyan, but lost to a Sena nominee by a huge margin. Like Thane, Kalyan, too, is considered a Sena stronghold. The Sena has renominated sitting MP Shrikant Shinde, son of Sena leader and state minister Eknath Shinde, who has a considerable clout in Thane district. Shinde is pitted against NCP’s Babaji Shinde, a councillor.The Raigad seat is expected to see a tough contest – sitting MP and Union minister Anant Geete versus NCP’s Sunil Tatkare. The NCP has the backing of the Peasants and Workers’ Party of India, which has a strong presence in Raigad district. In 2014, Geete won by a slender margin of 2,110 votes against Tatkare. This time, Tatkare is making a bid to win the sit. The support from PWP could turn out to be a swing factor in the constituency. In 2009, PWP supported a Sena candidate, which helped it cross the victory line. In 2014, the PWP put up its candidate against Tatkare and Geete. The PWP candidate polled more than 1.29 lakh votes.The Congress, which has fielded former MP Suresh Taware from Bhiwandi, is facing infighting in the region. The party’s 2014 candidate, Vishwanath Patil, who was eyeing candidature, has reportedly expressed his displeasure. Another section of leaders wanted Suresh Mhatre, former Maharashtra Navnirman Sena leader, to be fielded as Congress candidate. The BJP has re-nominated sitting MP Kapil Patil from the seat. The Congress would be banking on getting votes from diverse communities in the constituency. Bhiwandi has a high Kunbi population along with a large number of Muslims and Agris. The Sena is expected to wrest control over the Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg seat again thanks to the scrapping of the Nanar oil refinery project. The Sena has a strong presence in the constituency. However, the Sena’s bête noire, Narayan Rane, has fielded his son, Nilesh, from the constituency and it could cut into the votes of the Sena. Nilesh Rane contested on a Congress ticket in 2014 against Sena’s Vinayak Raut and polled more than 3.43 lakh votes, although Raut won by a large margin. The Congress has fielded Navinchandra Bandivadekar, a leader of the Bhandari community that has a strong presence in the constituency. Bandivadekar was in controversy after it came to light that he had participated in a meeting to protest the arrest of Vaibhav Raut, a Sanatan Sanstha worker found with arms.