Thane victory boosts Shiv Sena's morale

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Mumbai, May 25 (UNI) The Shiv Sena today received a shot in the arm by winning the Thane Lok Sabha seat and maintaining its stronghold.

The by-election was necessitated following the demise of Sena's Prakash Paranjpe who had represented the constituency since 1996 till his death.

The Shiv Sena had played the sympathy card by fielding Prakash Paranjpe's son Anand. The NCP had fielded Sanjeev Naik, the son of Maharashtra Minister Ganesh Naik and the by-election, thus, was a contest between the sons of politicians.

In sharp contrast to Anand, who is a poltical novice, Sanjeev has been in the political arena for quite some time and has the distinction of having been the youngest mayor of the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation.

Thane has always been the bastion of the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance.

In the late 70s and early 80s, the constituency was represented by late BJP stalwart Rambhau Mhalgi.

The Congress has able to make a dent in this bastion in 1984 when Shantaram Gholap bagged the seat riding on the sympathy wave following the assassination of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

There was some bickering between the BJP and the Shiv Sena in 1996, when Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray put his foot down and demanded that the Thane seat should be allotted to his party even though BJP's Ram Kapse had then been representing the constituency.

Late BJP leader Pramod Mahajan had then yeilded to the demand and Prakash Paranjpe, a former Thane mayor, came to hold fort. He held the seat for four consecutive terms from 1996 till his death.

However, Prakash Paranjpe's popularity suffered some setback in 2004 when he defeated NCP candidate Vasant Davkhare by a slender margin of only 22,000 votes. The Thane Lok Sabha seat, incidentally, is the second largest Lok Sabha constituency in the country.

This time around, Anand Paranjpe has been able to raise the victory margin considerably and won hands down by a margin of over 85,000 votes.

The polling, on May 22, had witnessed a poor turnout with only 24.57 per cent of the electorate exercising its franchise. The by-election had assumed considerable significance as it was a run-up to the forthcoming state assembly elections as well as the general elections.

Besides, the Thane Lok Sabha constituency is to be carved into four constituencies during the general elections scheduled next year, which has further heightened its importance.

Senior leaders of both the Shiv Sena and the NCP, including Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray and NCP's Chhagan Bhujbal, had actively campaigned and sought to mobilise the voters.

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