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Lok Sabha elections 2019: Shiv Sena hopes Palghar stands by its former BJP MP

Like its topography, which includes forests, hills and a sea strip, the political allegiance in the Palghar Lok Sabha constituency, too, is distinct and divided

lok sabha elections Updated: Apr 28, 2019 01:23 IST
Swapnil Rawal
Swapnil Rawal
Mumbai
Lok Sabha elections 2019,Lok Sabha elections,Lok Sabha
Baliram Jadhav with Daripada villagers during election campaign in Palghar district.(Satish Bate/HT Photo)

Earlier in the week, the young and old members of Shigaon and Hanuman Nagar villages in Palghar taluka gathered to discuss the Lok Sabha elections. As the villagers, including the sarpanch of two villages, voiced their opinion, no clear verdict came out .

Like its topography, which includes forests, hills and a sea strip, the political allegiance in the Palghar Lok Sabha constituency, too, is distinct and divided.

The seat saw a by-poll in May 2018, where in a four-cornered fight , the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) emerged victorious against the Shiv Sena, Congress and the Bahujan Vikas Aghadi (BVA). Eleven months later, the political scenario has altered significantly, with Sena and BJP contesting together, and the Congress, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), CPI-M and other smaller political outfits backing the BVA.

The key contest is between the Sena and BVA candidates. Sena’s Rajendra Gavit, who won on a BJP ticket in May 2018, will take on BVA’s former MP Baliram Jadhav. There are 12 candidates in the fray for the Palghar Lok Sabha seat that votes on April 29.

The constituency has a mix of tribal, rural and urban population. While it has a considerable tribal population in Talasari, Vikramgad, Jawhar and Mokhada, it also includes urban areas — namely Vasai, Nallasopara, Virar, Boisar and Palghar.

With its proximity to Mumbai, the vast constituency has a slew of infrastructure projects in the pipeline. The mega projects, including the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project, will leave many tribals displaced.

Paint marks on the roads opposing the bullet train project may have faded, but for the project-affected people of Palghar region, it is an election issue. Several infrastructure projects, including Mumbai-Vadodara Expressway, Vadhwan Port and bullet train are expected to leave scores of tribals displaced. The residents of the hamlets, who will lose their land and source of livelihood, say the vote will be for the candidate that would save them from imminent displacement. The locals are irked with Sena, which had taken a stance against the bullet-train project during the 2018 by-poll against the BJP, but is now silent on the issue.

Bandhu Umbarsada, sarpanch of Hanuman Nagar, said, “Last year, the Sena was speaking about the futility of the bullet train. It had taken a pro-people stance. But after alliance, it has not spoken about the people’s opposition to the project and other projects . The vote this time will be for the one who will save us from displacement.”

The villagers had earlier contemplated boycotting the election. “This is a Lok Sabha election. It is like taking out five buckets of water from the ocean. It will not make any difference to the election if we do not vote. Instead of wasting our chance, we will vote for a local,” said Javed Solanki, a resident of Hanuman Nagar, 120 km from Mumbai.

“The policy of Sena is to back projects that are good for development. My personal stance on this issue is to be with the people if they are against it; irrespective of my party’s stance. It is also the party’s policy to stance by the people,” said Gavit, when asked why the Sena is quiet on the bullet train issue during its campaign.

Meanwhile, Jadhav has voiced his opposition to the bullet-train project and other projects that would displace the tribals and affect the livelihood of the fishing community. “ According to Gavit, the sitting MP, the fight between him and Jadhav will be a “tough” one. Jadhav, meanwhile, is “confident of winning the seat by a handsome margin” thanks to the support from Congress, NCP, CPI-M, which have a significant presence in the region.

Sena’s Shrinivas Wanga, son of former BJP MP Chintaman Wanga, who had contested the by-poll against Gavit, opined that it will not be an “easy” win after the grand alliance’s backing for BVA. “There is a maha aghadi (grand alliance). This time it won’t be an easy win as it looks like. We could win it, but it will be tough. The CPI has joined them. They get bulk votes [in the tribal area]. My father worked with them (tribals). He never worked for them as a politician from a party. He was an advocate. He used to help them, so people would keep aside their allegiance to CPI and Congress and vote for him. Now the votes will decrease. It would depend on Gavit saheb’s relations with them,” Wanga said. Gavit, according to party functionaries, does not enjoy the support of the tribal population as they feel he is an outsider.

Jadhav, the first MP to be elected from here, in 2009, said, “I am confident about winning the seat. We have the backing of 58 parties. I will win the seat. There is no doubt. Apart from that, I have performed in my first stint.” The BJP had deployed heavyweights, including UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath, union home minister Rajnath Singh in the last week to influence north Indian voters in the Vasai-Virar belt of the constituency. But Jadhav is unfazed, “Let them get whoever they want. In weddings, a lot of people come home, but only family members stay right? The people of Vasai-Virar are with us.”

The Sena campaigned aggressively in Palghar, Dahanu in the last leg of campaigning. Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray, in a rally, said a win for BVA could get the Congress president elected, which would “make the country a cartoon network”.

First Published: Apr 28, 2019 01:23 IST