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Tuesday, Oct 22, 2019

Maha polls: Which party will support Konkan?

mumbai Updated: Oct 12, 2019 00:03 IST
Swapnil Rawal
Swapnil Rawal

With development work to boast in a mix of urban and rural seats in the region, the ruling saffron combine of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Shiv Sena are looking to retain their hold over Konkan.

The Konkan region, which has five districts excluding Mumbai, has a little more than 1.02 crore registered voters. Of the 34 constituencies across five districts, the BJP and Sena control 21. With most of the constituencies falling under the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), the development of infrastructure and upgrade of transport are key issues. The current BJP-led government has launched several infrastructure projects in the MMR to address them. Political analyst Surendra Jondhale said the current government has clicked with the urban and semi-urban voters.

While the Opposition, the Congress, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and regional players, is grappling with defections on seats they controlled in 2014, the Peasants and Workers Party of India (PWP) has some degree of hold in Raigad region, while the Bahujan Vikas Aghadi (BVA) has influence in the Vasai-Virar belt.

The Palghar district has six Assembly seats, including Vikramgad, Dahanu, Palghar, Boisar, Vasai and Nallasopara. The BJP currently holds two seats, the BVA three and the Sena one. The Thane-Navi Mumbai constituency consists of Mira-Bhayander, Kopri-Panchpakhadi, Ovala-Majiwada, Thane, Airoli and Belapur seats. The BJP has control over three seats, while the Sena controls two and NCP one. The Kalyan and Bhiwandi region is largely dominated by Sena and BJP legislators.

Three out of the six seats of the Raigad district were won by the Sena. The PWP, a regional outfit with a strong base that supports the Congress-NCP alliance, bagged two in the 2014 election. While the NCP won the Shrivardhan seat, but party’s legislator, Avdhut Tatkare switched to the Shiv Sena.

The Ratnagiri district has five seats, while the Sindhudurg district has three seats. The Sena has a tight grip on the two districts, with five of the eight seats. The NCP and Congress have two and one seats respectively.

Infrastructure development, better connectivity, jobs for the youth, primary medical facilities, especially in rural parts, are expected to dominate the constituencies in Palghar, Thane, Kalyan, Bhiwandi, Raigad, and Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg.

According to Palghar-based tribal activist Vinod Dumada, tribals in Palghar’s Vikramgadh, Jawhar and Mokhada still battle malnutrition and infant mortality.

Areas bordering the financial capital are seeing the fastest growth in the country, mainly owing to high property rates in Mumbai. Residents of these areas, including Thane, Bhiwandi, Kalyan, Mira-Bhayander, Vasai-Virar, and Boisar, seek better transportation and growth in infrastructure to reduce their travel time. The government has announced several infrastructure projects in the MMR to connect Mumbai to other adjoining areas.

The constituents of the Raigad, Ratnagiri, and Sindhudurg seek development, boost in tourism, jobs in their towns so that they do not have to migrate to cities including Mumbai, Pune, and Thane.

Even though the Sena and BJP have agreed upon the seat-sharing formula, the situation on the ground is different, with several hopefuls are contesting polls as independents.. The rebellion is likely to impact the poll prospects, in some cases, giving an edge to the opposition, analysts said.

BJP rebels have been contesting as independents from Boisar and Bhiwandi east, while a Sena rebel is contesting against a BJP candidate Kalyan east in the region. Vilas Tare, the Sena candidate from Boisar, is unfazed by the BJP rebel Santosh Janathe in the fray along with BVA’s Rajesingh Manga Koli. “The Sena has a strong cadre here. I am not worried because of the people will look at the leadership of [Shiv Sena chief] Uddhav ji [Thackeray] and past record of my work,” he said.

With several key players from the opposition parties have joined the Sena and the BJP, the contest for the Konkan region seems one-sided, with the NCP-Congress could be limited to winning a few seats in its pocket borough.

The Sena has poached opposition party leaders and legislators. Former NCP legislator Bhaskar Jadhav from Guhagar defected to the Sena. NCP legislators Avdhut Tatkare from Shrivardhan and Pandurang Barora from Shahapur in Thane rural also joined the Sena ahead of the elections. BVA sitting MLA from Boisar Vilas Tare, also joined the Sena. Party insiders said with these defections, the Sena will be able to consolidate on its numbers. In Navi Mumbai, senior NCP leader Ganesh Naik alongwith his legislator son Sandeep have joined the BJP.

The key battles from Konkan are expected to be at Shrivardhan, Kankavli, Kudal, Sawantwadi, Boisar, Nallasopara, Vasai, and Bhiwandi East assembly seats. In Thane area, Thane city and Airoli and Kalwa-Mumbra will be interesting fights. NCP’s Aditi Tatkare, daughter of Raigad MP Sunil Tatkare, is contesting from Shrivardhan for the first time. Aditi is pitted against Sena’s Vinod Ghosalkar, a one-term legislator. With the PWP’s support to the NCP, the contest on the seat is expected to be a close one. Tatkare said, “We are positive about the win as we had a lead from the seat during the recent Lok Sabha election.”

Ghosalkar, who is being termed as an ‘outsider” by the NCP, is banking on the development work of the BJP-led government to pull him through. “People are tired of the dynasty politics of the [Tatkare] family,” he said.

Aditi’s cousin Avdhut quit the NCP to join the Sena, but he was not fielded.

Close to Mumbai, former police officer Pradeep Sharma will take on BVA’s sitting MLA Kshitij Thakur. The Sena is projecting the contest as a fight between a police officer and local mafia. Vasai MLA and Kshitij’s father Hitendra Thakur is known as a strongman in the region.

In Thane city constituency, the BJP will have a direct fight with the MNS. BJP MLA Sanjay Kelkar will contest against MNS’ Avinash Jadhav. The NCP has extended support to the MNS after its candidate’s form was rejected by the returning officer on technical grounds.

The alliance between the BJP and Sena has ceased in Sindhudurg as the two parties are trying hard to defeat the other in a “friendly” fight on Kudal Kankavli and Sawantwadi. The balance in the Sena-BJP alliance was disrupted with Narayan Rane, Sena bete-noire joining forces with the BJP. Despite opposition from the Sena, the BJP gave Rane’s son Nitesh, a sitting MLA, a ticket from Kankavli. The Sena has put up an official candidate, Satish Sawant, against Nitesh, effectively contesting against the BJP. This is the only constituency in Maharashtra where the ruling parties are officially contesting against each other.

In retaliation, close associates of Rane senior were fielded as independents from neighbouring Kudal and Sawantwadi. The BJP is now backing the independent candidates. “We had one seat in our share. Amit Shah and Devendra Fadnavis will decide who to give it to. They (Sena) do not have a say in it,” said Pramod Jathar, Sindhudurg district head of the BJP.

Vinayak Raut, Sena MP from Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg, expressed confidence and said that the party has a strong presence in the Konkan region and will retain the three seats.

“Getting Rane in the BJP could be their ploy to marginalise the Shiv Sena,” said Surendra Jondhale, a political analyst.

First Published: Oct 12, 2019 00:03 IST

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