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Thursday, Nov 14, 2019

In Wadala constituency, parties change, this candidate’s voters don’t

For 29 years in a row, Kalidas Kolambkar, 67, has been the legislator Wadala picked, irrespective of the party he contested from.

assembly-elections Updated: Oct 15, 2019 14:17 IST
Naresh Kamath
Naresh Kamath
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
Ex-Congress leader, Kalidas Kolambkar (L). This time, he is contesting on a BJP ticket and is confident of winning the eighth term
Ex-Congress leader, Kalidas Kolambkar (L). This time, he is contesting on a BJP ticket and is confident of winning the eighth term(PTI Photo)
         

For 29 years in a row, Kalidas Kolambkar, 67, has been the legislator Wadala picked, irrespective of the party he contested from.

In the Marathi heartland of Mumbai, Kolambkar managed to win the Assembly elections, even after he quit the Shiv Sena and joined the Congress. This time, he is contesting on a BJP ticket and is confident of winning the eighth term. From 1990 to 2004, Kolambkar was elected as the Sena MLA four times in a row, thrice as a Congress candidate, including in a byelection when he defected from the Sena to the Congress. The only other politician who has been a legislator for so long is BJP’s Prakash Mehta, who has been denied a ticket by his party this time. Kolambkar will face Shivkumar Lad, a greenhorn from the Congress.

Although both the politicians face dissidence from their respective parties and allies, Kolambkar, with his experience, boasts of a loyal vote bank. According to former journalist Mahesh Panchal, who is a voter from this area, Kolambkar’s USP is his personal connect with people in his constituency and accessibility.

“Kolambkar never misses household functions of his voters, be it wedding, naming ceremony or even pujas. He is accessible and has his personal vote bank, irrespective of his party affiliation,” said Panchal.

The constituency covers Naigaum, Five Gardens, Matunga, Nadkarni Park and part of Elphinstone Road and Dadar. It is dominated by slum pockets and old chawls, but also has a substantial amount of middle class and affluent population. It also has 42 Bombay Development Department (BDD) chawls with 3,344 families, whose much-awaited revamp has still not taken.

Lad says Kolambkar has no vision and the former would emerge as a giant killer. “He has only been changing parties, but the issues remain. I am confident of ending his reign,” said Lad.

Kolambkar has an uphill task of convincing both the Sena and BJP workers to campaign for him. The Shiv Sena, in which he cut his political teeth, sees him as a turncoat and boycotted him when he went to file his nomination form. On the other hand, BJP workers see him as an outsider, who has come for personal benefit. “The voters have been electing me owing to my work. I was responsible for the BDD chawl revamp and also the police housing scheme will fructify shortly…I have changed political parties due to various electoral compulsions and only for the benefit of my electorate,” said Kolambkar.

Congress spokesperson Raju Waghmare, who was one of the aspirants, claimed the party has erred in its candidature.

“Lad is a weak candidate and is unknown. Local Congress workers are demoralised,” said Waghmare.

RTI activist Bhaskar Prabhu, a resident of this constituency, said: “The constituency faces issues like redevelopment, tenants issue and parking. The quality of life of citizens is deteriorating.”