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Tuesday, Oct 22, 2019

Maha polls: Colaba set to see a tense fight

mumbai Updated: Oct 12, 2019 00:04 IST
Eeshanpriya M S
Eeshanpriya M S
Hindustantimes
         

The fight for the Colaba Assembly seat is likely to be tense, as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) did not give a ticket to sitting MLA Raj Purohit, favouring Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) turncoat Rahul Narvekar, 42, who joined the BJP formally just hours before filing his nomination from Colaba.

The constituency has elected Congress MLAs for seven terms spread over 29 years, from 1980 to 2014. The scenario changed in 2014, when BJP’s Purohit bagged the seat, defeating then sitting MLA from Congress Annie Shekhar. Shekhar was the second runner-up after Shiv Sena’s Pandurang Sakpal.

This time, a local Marathi face, Narvekar will contest against Congress’s Ashok Jagtap, 63, another Marathi leader. Both Jagtap and Narvekar are currently members of the Legislative Council.

While Narvekar is a resident of Colaba and was born and raised here, Jagtap has an appeal among lower- and middle-class families owing to his background as a union leader. There are six other candidates in the fray, including Jitendra Kamble from VBA and Arjun Rukhe from Bahujan Samaj Party. The BJP’s decision has left Purohit clueless.

“There was no reason for the party not to give me a ticket. I have performed very well .” However, BJP’s Narvekar said, “I am a local of Colaba and I have stayed there for the past 42 years. My family is established here for four generations over 125 years. We have worked for the constituency.” Narvekar’s brother Makarand is a corporator from Colaba.

Among the many issues, the most pertinent ones are redevelopment of old buildings and eviction of tenants on the MbPT land that stretches between Colaba all the way up to Wadala.

The port trust intends to commercially develop this land, and published a development plan for it in 2018. The tenants received eviction notices with backdated dues in rent to MbPT amounting to crores of rupees.

Pervez Cooper, 59, a resident from Colaba’s MbPT, and a member of Colaba Heritage Residents Association, said, “None of us is against development, but it cannot happen by uprooting locals and their livelihoods. If someone we elect is in majority in the state, they should address the common man’s plight. There is opposition to these projects because there is no dialogue and transparency between government and voters.” The area has a large population of fishermen living in the Geeta Nagar village, at the southernmost tip of the constituency. The fishermen of Colaba have been protesting construction of the Backbay reclamation park and the Shiv Smarak. The government has assured the fishermen that they will be given space to park and navigate their boats, despite the reclamation.

Nayana Kathpalia, a trustee of non-government organization NAGAR, said, “They want to make an iconic park in the water near Cuffe Parade. This is a disastrous plan, because they will have to reclaim the sea which will be an environmental disaster.”

She said the footpaths in Colaba are unwalkable, and are encroached upon by hawkers, parked cars and bikes.

Colaba has a lot of old trees, and heritage buildings as well, both of which are poorly maintained, according to residents. Mahendra Hemdev, 54, a member of Marine Drive Residents’ Association, said, “There is also the issue of old buildings awaiting redevelopment. The only win-win solution for these buildings is if they get converted to ownership, and the tenants and landlords both, are compensated.” The construction of Metro- 3 over the past two years has caused considerable traffic problems, given rise to new flooding spots, noise owing to construction at night, and new mosquito-breeding grounds.

However, Hemdev said, “We are a VIP area, with a lot of civil servants and MLAs’ homes are in this locality. So we have good and quick response from BMC officials toward all our complaints.”

Despite repeated attempts, Ashok Jagtap remained unavailable for a comment.

FACE-OFF AT RALLIES

Jagtap and Narvekar had a face-off on the streets of Kalbadevi on Thursday. Party workers from both the camps had a war of words, and were soon joined by the candidates. While Jagtap accused Narvekar of throwing his weight around, Narvekar accused Jagtap of doing so. They both were unavailable for a comment.

First Published: Oct 12, 2019 00:04 IST

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