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Maharashtra legislative council polls: All political parties playing for ego, none for voters

Although the MNS and the Shiv Sena have similar DNA that, however, has not been the case with the Sena which has held the graduates’ seat for three decades

mumbai Updated: Jun 20, 2018 00:29 IST
Sujata Anandan
Sujata Anandan
Hindustan Times
MNS,Shiv Sena,Maharashtra
Shiv Sena chairperson Uddhav Thackeray.(HT Photo)

The periodic elections to the legislative council from the teachers’ and graduates’ constituencies are a great way to judge support for various political parties from the intellectuals of society. I remember some years ago Maharashtra Navnirman Sena president Raj Thackeray had thrown a tantrum when a candidate he had authorised to contest the seat had refused to do so. Although the candidate had had at least a year’s notice in advance from Raj, he chose to bow out when he discovered no graduate was willing to associate with the MNS, least of all register as a voter for the party.

Although the MNS and the Shiv Sena have similar DNA that, however, has not been the case with the Sena which has held the graduates’ seat for three decades. But that could also be because both Pramod Navalkar and Dr Deepak Sawant, who is now vacating the seat, did not have the image of rabble rousers and could convincingly draw voters to their side. It was also said another reason for that was because they never sought votes from graduates who might be inimical to the party and registered only those they were sure of voting for them.

I found it a little difficult to believe that voters in the graduates’ constituency could be manipulated into voting for any political party this way until last week when Nitesh Rane allegedly, in a tweet, exposed the manipulation of the voters’ list where one name had appeared not just twice or thrice but six times as a registered voter for the graduates’ constituency. He claimed that the repeat voter was none other than the wife of Uddhav Thackeray’s closest aide Milind Narvekar.

Now if this kind of over registration was being illegally done, I would have thought the Sena would have been more careful about choosing that particular name to register over and over again. Because Narayan Rane’s running battle with Uddhav Thackeray was always about Narvekar’s alleged lack of respect for older Sena leaders and he was just waiting to pounce on the man sooner or later. Rane is currently a Rajya Sabha member on a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ticket but he is also putting up his own candidate for the seat from his newly formed Swabhiman Party as is the BJP who might be able to attract more graduates than the Sena. So I can understand the party’s need to manipulate the seat which was first won by Navalkar in the 1980s with active Congress support. Navalkar was a socialist who was also able to earn the confidence of many more intellectuals than a rabble rousing typical Shiv Sainik might. But now, squashed between all these political parties playing for their ego, is Deepak Pawar, fighting as an independent and hoping to influence the graduates into giving him a shot at representing them in the legislative council.

It is a long shot, however. The Congress and NCP might support the PWP candidate as a quid pro quo for the PWP’s support to the NCP in an earlier election and both the Sena and the BJP as well as Rane have plenty of resources to win the election. But as Pawar told me, he is hoping to persuade graduates to understand that the Shiv Sena has been stuck with only one issue in three decades — Marathi asmita — and not moved beyond that in any concrete terms; and certainly not made a difference to their lot in life for voting the party for three decades.

“Every time the number of registered graduates comes down. Last time it was 90,000. This time it is 74,000 whereas a city like Mumbai should have at least 10-15 lakh graduates. Which shows less and less of them are willing to associate with some of these parties who are only in an ego battle with each other. I am looking to fight for jobs for graduates, better living conditions for those without housing. It is not only the Marathi manoos who needs to be represented. There are graduates from all over the country living here.”

Those are lofty goals but the dream to breach the Sena and BJP defences might be not so impossible either. I remember many years ago fellow journalist Kapil Patil, associated with teachers, breached the Congress-NCP defences and startled everyone by winning a teachers’ constituency seat as an independent. He is recontesting this time with the support of practically all other parties but the Sena and BJP. Teachers had been bold enough then to give him an opportunity and he has not disappointed them in taking up their causes.

Will graduates need more persuasion?

First Published: Jun 20, 2018 00:29 IST