Maha polls: In Ghatkopar East, richest candidate ready for the fightUpdated: Oct 11, 2019 00:31 IST
In Ghatkopar East constituency, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) dropped its six-time MLA to make way for the city’s richest candidate Parag Shah. Although the decision led to a major scuffle between party workers, Shah is expected to win the Assembly polls, owing to a weak opposition.
Pitted against Shah are Congress’s Manisha Suryavanshi, a local party worker, Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi’s (VBA) Vikas Pawar, and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena’s Satish Pawar. A saffron stronghold for three decades, the Gujarati-Jain residents are “traditional” BJP voters.
The BJP denied a ticket to Prakash Mehta, a former housing minister who was dropped from the cabinet following corruption charges. While Pravin Chheda, who joined the BJP from the Congress before the Lok Sabha elections was also in the fray, the party chose Shah, a corporator from ward 132 in Ghatkopar East. “Shah has got a ready-made seat,” quipped a BJP worker from Ghatkopar. He is said to have joined politics with the 2017 civic elections on being urged by Mehta. Last week, Mehta’s supporters stormed the streets and also broke Shah’s car after the party announced his candidature.
Shah, however, said Mehta is a part of all his rallies now. “It was just a half-an-hour scuffle, in which Mehta was not involved. He [Mehta] is supporting me. I am getting a lot of affection in all areas,” said Shah, who declared assets worth ₹500 crore.
With a total population of six lakh, Ghatkopar East has a huge number of Maharashtrians, followed by Gujaratis and Jains, huge Dalit pockets in Ramabai Nagar and Kamraj Nagar and South Indians in Garodia Nagar. The BJP has a huge presence in this area and Prakash Ambedkar’s VBA is also making inroads owing to the huge Dalit population in the area.
In the 2017 civic elections, Shah defeated Congress’s Chheda by more than 2,000 votes and in the 2014 Assembly elections, Mehta defeated Congress’ Virendra Bakshi by more than 10,000 votes. While BJP’s Manoj Kotak won the Lok Sabha elections with a huge majority, VBA’s Niharika Khondalay who contested from the Mumbai North East seat (includes Ghatkopar) stood third with 68,000 votes.
Rahul Kamble, a social activist from Ramabai Nagar, said the Congress should have fielded Virendra Bakshi, a former MLA or Raja Mirani, a known name among the Gujaratis from Ghatkopar. “It would have been a tougher fight for Shah then. BJP’s voters will stick to Shah, the only Gujarati name among popular candidates,” Kamble said.
Suryavanshi, however, said she has worked in the constituency for the past eight years. “I have a huge support base as I have worked in the slums of Ghatkopar,” she said.
A predominantly residential suburb, Ghatkopar East faces severe congestion on the arterial road of LBS Marg and the 90 feet road, especially with the construction of the Metro-4 (Wadala-Thane-Kasarwadavali). Illegal hawking on streets like Tilak road and Khau galli has also been a menace in the suburb.
Nikita Mehta, a resident of Rajawadi in Ghatkopar East, said, “The 90 feet road is almost ruined because of the Metro construction. We pity people staying on the road. People also park on both sides of the roads clogging it up further.”