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Maharashtra elections: Will SP-Shiv Sena face-off leave Mankhurd voters divided?

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Mumbai, Oct 14: Samajwadi Party leader Abu Asim Azmi, who often courts controversies over his statements, faces a stiff contest in his stronghold of Mankhurd-Shivajinagar in eastern suburbs of the commercial capital, Mumbai.

Maharashtra elections: Will SP-Shiv Sena face-off leave Mankhurd voters divided?

Azmi, 64, is SP's Maharashtra and Mumbai unit president. He is contesting from Mankhurd Shivajinagar constituency for the upcming Maharashtra assembly elections 2019 against Shiv Sena's Vitthal Lokare. He was recently trying for an alliance with the Congress-NCP in Maharashtra but the talks fell through. The SP is now contesting on its own. Surprisingly Azmi believes it is the seats of Mankhurd, Bhiwandi and Aurangabad which hold out the promise of victory for his party.

It should also be noted that during the Lok Sabha elections, SP had tied up with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in Maharashtra, but had failed to secure even a single seat.

Lokare had recently quit the Congress to join the Sena. He had earlier left the Shiv Sena along with Narayan Rane and joined the Congress. Around a month ago, Lokare returned to the Sena while Rane recently joined the Bharatiya Janata Party. Lokare has a following among the area's Marathi population. However, the majority Muslim population may not vote for the 'lotus' and might give Azmi a third term. The rejoining of Lokare in Shiv Sena is seen as his Ghar Wapsi, since 14 years ago he was in the Sena. Lokare has been elected as a councillor three times from Mankhurd area. Meanwhile, Uddhav Thackeray has appealed to the party workers to support Lokare.

According to his affidavit, Azmi has 10 first information reports against him including criminal cases and breach of model code of conduct. He has declared assets worth around ₹200 crore, making him one of the richest candidates in Maharashtra. While Lokare has declared assets totalling ₹1.3 crore. He has no criminal cases against him.

'Friendly fight' likely between 'lotus' and 'bow and arrow' in Mankhurd:

Another intersting thing here is the the Shiv Sena and the BJP will also face against each other. While Sena candidate Vitthal Lokare filed his nomination, city RPI (A) unit chief Gautam Sonawane, who will contest on BJP's 'Lotus' symbol also filed his nomination.

Acute water shortage, a crux issue:

Mankhurd-Shivajinagar constituency is one of the most underdeveloped area which consists of housing societies, chawls and sprawling slums in Shivaji Nagar, Rafiq Nagar, Bainganwadi, and parts of Deonar. The slums consist of pucca or makeshift multistoreyed structures in the area's narrow lanes, which have seen incidents of fire or building collapses in the past. According to the reports, the residents also face acute water shortage as most either do not have a legal water connection, or the existing ones do not receive water. This leads to people having to buy water at exorbitant rates.

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