Maha polls: Triangular contest in MulundUpdated: Oct 08, 2019 23:48 IST
A Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stronghold for three decades, the Mulund Assembly constituency is the party’s ‘safe seat’, where issues such as traffic congestion, lack of footpaths, mess around the station and redevelopment of old buildings are unlikely to affect their prospects.
Dropping its four-time MLA Sardar Tara Singh and denying ticket to several corporators, the BJP is trying to woo voters with a new candidate, its Mumbai unit vice-president Mihir Kotecha, 47. The contest in Mulund is likely to be triangular. While the Congress has given ticket to Govind Singh, 74, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) has fielded Harshala Chavan, 43.
The BJP denied a ticket to Singh considering his age (he is 80 plus) and also because his son’s name surfaced in the Punjab and Maharashtra Bank controversy. Sources said that almost a dozen others were in the fray to get a ticket, including Mulund corporators Prakash Gangadhare, Prabhakar Shinde, Rajani Keni and former MP Kirit Somaiya’s wife Medha.
A BJP leader from Mulund said, “Gangadhare’s name was almost finalised before Kotecha’s name was announced. Many Maharashtrians are not happy with the nomination. Many BJP karyakartas, too, wanted a Maharashtrian to contest, as the Gujarati community has already been given representation in the Lok Sabha. However, they will abide by the party’s decision. Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis too spoke to some of the corporators.”
In the Lok Sabha elections, party candidate Manoj Kotak won by a margin of 2.26 lakh votes against former MP Sanjay Patil. In the 2014 Assembly elections, BJP’s Tara Singh had defeated Congress’s Charan Singh Sapra by more than 70,000 votes.
Although a resident of Mulund, Kotecha has worked in the Wadala constituency for the past few years. He also contested the 2014 Assembly elections from Wadala, but lost to Congress’s Kalidas Kolambar, who is now in the BJP and contesting from Wadala. A BJP corporator from Mulund said he was adjusted in Mulund, because he could not contest from Wadala.
Kotecha, however, said his political journey started from Mulund. “I am back in my home turf. I have headed the Mulund BJP youth wing and the North-East constituency youth wing. Till 2014, I was active in Mulund. I continued my social activities here even after elections,” he said.
Kotecha’s opponent Govind Singh of Congress is virtually unknown in Mulund. Singh was earlier the chairman of the Congress Seva Dal. He said, “I have worked in the Congress for 35 years. Many people in Mulund are tired of the issues. They need a change from the BJP.”
With a total population of six lakh, Mulund is dominated by Maharashtrians, followed by Gujaratis, Jains, Punjabis and South Indians. The BJP has a bigger presence, followed by the Shiv Sena. The Congress and MNS have their pockets of influence. The BJP’s support base has been mostly Gujarati-speaking voters and a section of Maharashtrians. However, following the Modi wave, the BJP managed to get support across all sections of voters. The absence of Shiv Sena candidate due to alliance will also work in favour of the BJP.
The suburb, which is predominantly residential, has many new towers springing on the LBS Marg resulting in huge traffic snarls right at its entry. The railway station area has virtually turned into a mess with elected representatives completely ignoring the problems there. The station area and the roads leading to the station are crowded with hawkers with virtually no footpaths available in most of the areas. Evening and morning peak hours see huge traffic jams, but the authorities have failed to find any solution. There are many old buildings up for redevelopment in Mulund East and the Mulund colony area is also dotted with slums.
Birju Mundra, a resident of Mulund said, “Traffic chaos is worsening and no action is taken against hawkers. We also need better footpaths in Mulund. None of the previous governments has taken up any pedestrian initiatives here.”