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2019 Lok Sabha polls: It’s Shiv Sena vs Rane in Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg constituency

Main contest in Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg is between Shiv Sena’s Vinayak Raut and MSP’s Nilesh Rane

lok sabha elections Updated: Apr 22, 2019 01:22 IST
Swapnil Rawal
Swapnil Rawal
Hindustan Times
Hindustan Times
The constituency that covers the two southern-most districts of Konkan will go to polls on April 23(Hindustan Times)

The Shiv Sena and its bete noire, former chief minister Narayan Rane, have once again locked horns in coastal Konkan’s Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg constituency. Significantly, the BJP, which had made Rane an ally and even sent him to the Rajya Sabha, is with the Sena as it looks to defeat Rane’s son Nilesh.

The constituency that covers the two southern-most districts of Konkan will go to polls on April 23. The seat is currently held by the Sena and will see a triangular fight between Sena, Congress and Rane’s Maharashtra Swabhiman Party (MSP).

Political observers say that the main contest is between the Sena and MSP, as its leaders are known in the region, and that the Sena has an upper hand in the fight. Sena MP Vinayak Raut is pitted against Nilesh and Congress’s Navinchandra Bandivadekar. Nilesh contested on a Congress ticket in 2014 against Raut and polled more than 3.43 lakh votes, although Raut won by a large margin.

The Congress candidate is a leader of the Bhandari community, which has a strong presence in the constituency. Bandivadekar was recently involved in a controversy after it came to light that he had participated in a meeting to protest the arrest of Vaibhav Raut, a Sanatan Sanstha worker, arrested in connection with an arms haul case.

The two districts have traditionally had a Sena influence and it is also considered the party’s stronghold outside the Mumbai Metropolitan Region. A large chunk of the locals have migrated to Mumbai and surrounding areas for jobs.

The Sena is confident of retaining the seat as it is banking on its grass-roots level presence and its latest “victory” to scrap the mega oil refinery project in Ratnagiri’s Nanar.

Like any election between Sena and Rane, this too is witnessing a bitter fight and personal allegations.

Rane in his party’s first major election is aiming to gain ground in Konkan, where he always had a foothold. Rane and Nilesh have been campaigning extensively against the Sena across the constituency. Meanwhile, Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray have campaigned for Raut.

Nilesh is attacking the Sena leadership for failing to bring jobs for locals, while it continued to “fill its own pockets”. The Sena, on the other hand, is targeting the Ranes as it says it will free Konkan from the family’s ‘hooliganism’.

“When I was elected in 2014, the constituency had a mountain of challenges. What Narayanrao couldn’t do in his lifetime, we have managed to do so in five years,” Raut said, while campaigning in Sindhudurg. Hinting at senior Rane, he added, “One man has looted the Konkan region and held its people to ransom, but I am confident he will be cut to size this election.”

Deepak Sawant, guardian minister of Sawantwadi, said when Rane was the guardian minister of the district in the Congress-NCP government, he barely got funds for the region. “There are plenty of people who boast, but hardly few that actually work. In various sectors, be it for farmers, for education, for port development, our government has given more funds than he ever did,” Sawant said, without naming Rane.

According to Nilesh, the election is “crucial” for Konkan. “The Sena has not done any development work in the past five years. The incomplete work after we were defeated in 2014 is still incomplete. Sena is in power at the Centre and in Maharashtra, but they haven’t brought one industry in Konkan to give jobs to the people. They have kept contracts with them and filled their pockets. People gave them power, but they proved to be useless,” Rane said.

However, Raut said, “Konkan is peaceful in my tenure. Everybody here knows the kind of terror they had spread. We aim to make the region free of the hooliganism that thrived in their term.”

According to Raut, the party stands with the people of Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg, which was “displayed” in the opposition to Nanar project. “We opposed the project, because the people did not want it. We are not against development,” he said. A senior Sena functionary said the Nanar success has helped the party in the region at at time when voters were asking why Sena has entered into an alliance with the BJP. “We had differences with the BJP and they were on issues related to people. Having managed to scrap the project that was opposed strongly will help us,” he said.

Meanwhile, Rane said the strong cadre of Sena is unlikely to hurt the MSP in the election. “Sena is not strong in Sindhudurg. Their presence is not even 15% here. In Ratnagiri, despite having a grass-roots presence, they have not done anything for the people. Uddhav comes to Konkan twice in a year. He doesn’t bring anything for the region, instead takes from here and its people. The people are agitated. We will surely benefit from this,” he said.

The constituency has a population of 18,33,936, of which 83% constitutes the rural population. It has 87% Hindus followed by 7% Muslims, 5% Buddhists and 1% are Christians. The SC population stands at 5.43 %, while ST are 0.63 % of the total population .

The constituency’s largest chunk of population is in the 35-60 age group at 49.85%, followed by 60+ age groups at 24.18%. Ages 25-35 are represented by 17.80% of the population and 8.17% are represented by the 18-25 age group. Since the last parliamentary election, the number of voters rose by 1.92%. The number of voters registered in 2019 are 13,93,619.

The main issues ailing the constituency are lack of jobs, development of infrastructure and tourism development.

The Sena is also banking on the Narendra Modi factor.

First Published: Apr 22, 2019 01:22 IST

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