ThaneWinning from Thane has always been a prestige issue for the Shiv Sena, as the city is known to be a Sena bastion. The fight this election, although seemingly one-sided, might cost Sena if they are over confident. With an emerging non-Marathi population, voters may not fall for the usual emotional appeals of the Sena. Also, the NCP’s decision to field a highly qualified and young candidate and an anti-incumbency sentiment can spoil Sena’s chances. Moreover, for its candidate, “bastions are never meant to be permanent.”The Thane Lok Sabha seat will be an acid test for Sena to keep its hold on the city, few months ahead of the Assembly elections. The constituency has around 23 lakh voters. The constituency comprises three cities — Thane, Navi Mumbai and Mira Bhayender. The main fight here is between Sena candidate and sitting MP Rajan Vichare and NCP candidate Anand Paranjpe. Vichare has worked his way up to MP, from being a four-time corporator, city’s mayor and MLA. Paranjpe, who became Thane MP in 2008 on a Shiv Sena seat, contested elections from Kalyan in 2009 and won. He, however, joined the NCP mid-term and lost the 2014 elections to Shrikant Shinde.Milind Ballal, senior journalist, said, “Thane residents for generations have cast their votes in favour of the saffron alliance. The prime reason for this is the Sena’s strong connect with people at the ground level, massive presence in the civic body and emotional connect. The party gets most votes from the Marathi-speaking community. However, Thane has now expanded into New Thane, which has a majorly cosmopolitan population. It remains to be seen if the party has managed to connect with this crowd.”Ballal added that this is where the BJP can do Sena a great help, as it has managed to connect with the non-Marathi community in Thane. Meanwhile, Paranjpe is playing the “educated candidate” card and can also connect well with new voters. These voters might not go by the tradition of voting for the Sena. Ballal added, “Moreover, there is an increase in young and first-time voters, whose loyalties do not lie with the saffron alliance.”Sena has an uphill task and cannot take the seat for granted. They will have to focus on the larger chunk of voters from areas like Navi Mumbai, Owala-Majiwada and Mira Bhayander. The Maratha community comprises over 35% of the total voters. The community in Thane has not shown their open opposition to the Sena, despite a seeming unrest over the reservation issue.The Brahmin community, predominant in areas like Naupada and Panchpakhadi, is mostly known to favour the BJP. However, Paranjpe, being a Brahmin, and with the community having a soft spot for his father, the late Sena MP Prakash Paranjpe, some votes may go in his favour. Meanwhile, over 16 NGOs and activists group pledged their support to the NCP.A senior Sena functionary said even though several few NGOs, activists and MNS have decided to support the NCP candidate, there will be no huge loss to the Sena. “There are many more organisations and unions that have pledged their support to us. Moreover, NCP is also losing its hold in Navi Mumbai too, as it at present has a BJP MLA and more than 25 Sena corporators. There is no unrest within the BJP. Most BJP leaders were present for filing nominations,” he added. The NCP does not have a strong connect with people, as its presence in civic body is also much lesser than the Sena. In the recent civic elections, many NCP corporators also joined the BJP, affecting the hold of the party on the city’s politics. The party also had to face opposition from Mira-Bhayander Congress leaders for the candidature of Paranjpe. Paranjpe said bastions are never permanent. “Bastions can be demolished and we plan to prove it this time. There has being no marked development in any of the three cities of the constituency in the past five years. Even though Thane has favoured the saffron parties, people are unhappy and looking for a change. The Sena tried to campaign against us by pointing out that I am from Kalyan, however, I have worked as city president of Thane NCP for the past five years. I am confident of a win,” he said.