Maharashtra Assembly polls 2019: Oppn on slippery ground in coastal Konkan; all eyes on Worli
Mumbai, Oct 11: The Konkan belt along the west coast of Maharashtra, which accounts for 75 assembly seats, will be a keenly watched battleground in the October 21 polls with key issues like the Nanar refinery, metro car shed at Aarey and PMC Bank scam expected to dominate campaign scene.
Mumbai, which is part of this vast region, alone accounts for 36 seats, but all eyes will be on the Worli seat from where Shiv Sena youth leader Aaditya Thackeray is making his debut in electoral politics.
The region, considered a Sena-BJP stronghold, was hit by large-scale desertions from opposition ranks ahead of polls, handing the saffron alliance an advantage at the hustings.
An urbanised region, Konkan is expected to see a straight fight between the Sena-BJP and the Congress-NCP alliances, with some smaller outfits also trying to make their presence felt. A proposed refinery project at Nanar in Ratnagiri district had become a flashpoint between the Shiv Sena and the BJP in the past.
The Sena has said the multi-billion refinery will damage the fragile ecology of Konkan.
A metro car shed at Aarey Colony, a green belt in suburban Goregaon, where over 2,000 trees have been hacked, and a mega scam at Mumbai-based PMC Bank, which has hit thousands of depositors and account-holders, are the most talked-about issues among the general public.
The Sena has been strongly opposing the Nanar refinery and while announcing the BJP's alliance with the Uddhav Thackeray-led party ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had said the project will be shifted out of Konkan.
But, while on a tour of the region during his 'Maha Janadesh Yatra' a few weeks ago, Fadnavis had hinted he would talk to local residents for starting the project in Nanar. However, the Shiv Sena has claimed locals don't want the project and it is a "closed" chapter.
The Konkan belt consists of districts of Palghar, Thane, Raigad, Mumbai, Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg and accounts for 75 seats, the most for any region in the state, which has a 288-member assembly. All the eight municipal corporations lying in the region are dominated by the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance.
While the Shiv Sena has a strong presence in Thane, Ratnagiri, Sindhudurg and Mumbai, the BJP has strengthened itself in the financial capital since 2014 and made inroads in Thane and Palghar. The Congress and the Sharad Pawar-led NCP have lost a lot of ground in the region.
A number of sitting Congress-NCP MLAs in this belt have crossed over to the BJP or the Sena since the April Lok Sabha elections. Avdhut Tatkare, the NCP MLA from Srivardhan, has joined the Shiv Sena, while Nitesh Rane, the Congress MLA from Kankavli, has switched over to the BJP.
Sandeep Naik, Airoli NCP MLA along with his father - former minister Ganesh Naik - and MP Sanjiv Naik joined the BJP a few weeks ago. Pandurang Barora, NCP MLA from Shahapur, joined the Shiv Sena. Sena legislator Amit Ghoda joined the NCP but returned to the Uddhav Thackeray-led party a few days later. Kalidas Kolambkar, Congress MLA from Wadala in Mumbai, switched allegiance to the BJP ahead of polls.
The BJP has denied tickets to heavyweights like Vinod Tawde (Borivali), Prakash Mehta (Ghatkopkar), Raj Purohit (Colaba) and Mulund (Sardar Tara Singh). In 2014, out of the 75 seats, BJP had won 25, Shiv Sena 28, Congress 6, NCP 8, Bahujan Vikas Aghadi 3, PWP 2, Samajwadi Party and AIMIM one each and independent one. In Mumbai, BJP bagged 15, Shiv Sena 14, Congress 5, AIMIM 1 and Samajwadi Party one.
In 2014, the Shiv Sena and the BJP had sought the assembly polls separately. Among the prominent rebels in Mumbai is sitting Shiv Sena MLA Trupti Sawant, who is contesting from Bandra East, which houses the Thackeray home Matoshree, against official party nominee Vishwanath Mahadeshwar, who is Mumbai's mayor.
The Shiv Sena has put up a candidate in Kankavli where Nitesh Rane, son of former chief minister Narayan Rane, is contesting on a BJP ticket. In Mumbai, former city unit Congress president Kripashankar Singh has quit the party and is campaigning for BJP candidates.
Mumbai NCP president Sachin Ahir quit the party and joined the Shiv Sena. Former Mumbai Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam has openly rebelled against the party over ticket distribution and has decided not to campaign for its candidates.