'Son' rise in Worli; Sena banks on Aaditya Thackeray to widen base
Mumbai, Oct 16: The electoral entry of Aaditya Thackeray, first member his family to take the poll plunge, has made Mumbai's Worli as the most talked about seat and all eyes will be on how the Yuva Sena chief fares.
While the Yuva Sena's leader win in the next week's state polls will not be surprising, political observers say the number of votes polled and the victory margin will matter more as the seat is considered a stronghold of the party, led by his father Uddhav Thackeray.
Aaditya Thackeray, 29, whom his party wants to be the deputy chief minister if the BJP-Sena alliance retains power in the state, is pitted against NCP's nominee Suresh Mane, a Dalit leader. While the Sena nominee has been trying to make a mark in politics by conducting roadshows, foot marches and raising issues like cutting of trees in Aarey Colony and Mumbai's nightlife, the NCP says its candidate is more aware of local issues as he hails from Worli, which cannot be called as the Sena bastion.
The constituency, located in south Mumbai, has undergone a sea change over the years-from being a textile hub to having plush skyscrapers and modern commercial complexes. Worli, which is one of the 36 seats located in Mumbai, overlooks the iconic Bandra-Worli sea link and houses architectural landmarks like the Nehru Centre, Nehru Planetarium, Haji Ali dargah and the Mahalaxmi racecourse. Originally a fisherfolk settlement which was part of seven islands of the then Bombay, Worli has grown into a plush cosmopolitan area over the years.
Now, with the Next Gen Thackeray, who is set to contest from the area to carry forward the family legacy, the area is likely to see a change in its political profile also, say observers. The constituency was represented by Sena leader Datta Nalawade from 1990 to 2004. But, in 2009, Sachin Ahir, then in the NCP, wrested the seat due to vote split by the MNS. The seat, having over three lakh voters, was retained by Sena's Sunil Shinde in 2014, despite the party having split with the BJP before those polls.
Even in 2014 and this year's Lok Sabha polls, Sena's Arvind Sawant won comfortably from the Worli parliamentary constituency. Aaditya Thackeray says he wants to make the constituency a "model of development".
Several of his posters have been put up in the constituency in different languages, an indication that the Sena wants to reach out to non-Marathi voters as well, to ensure that junior Thackeray romps home with a big win margin.
Apart from banners in Marathi, posters in English read: "Hello Worli", while Gujarati and Urdu banners great locals with words like "Kem Cho Worli" and "Salaam Worli" respectively.
The Urdu posters have a green background with Aditya Thackeray's picture and a message written in that language. When asked about issues being faced by the area, like redevelopment of BDD chawls, problems being faced by fishermen and traffic woes, Aaditya Thackeray said he wants to project the constituency as a model of development.
"Worli is a mini-Maharashtra, a mix of chawls, slums, towers cutting across castes and communities. The foundation stone for redevelopment of BDD chawlswas laid, but nothing happened. I want to make the constituency a model on how development should be done," the Sena nominee said. NCP candidate Mane said since the constituency spans from Haji Ali shrine to Worli seaface, Koliwada, Prabhadevi, Elphistone, Arthur Road jail and Mahalaxmi, he is conducting foot marches to reach out to a mix of Marathi, Gujarati, Punjabi, Telugu and Dalit voters. "I am focusing on my padyatra, door-to-door campaigns and chowk sabhas," he said.
Local NCP leader Ravi Mayekar rubbished claims that his party has fielded a weak candidate against the Sena. He saidsaid Mane, who is chief of the Bahujan Socialist Republican Party, a local outfit, had sought ticket from the NCP to contest the Worli polls much before Aaditya Thackeray entered the poll fray. "Unlike Aaditya, Mane is a local resident. It is wrong to say that Worli is a Sena stronghold. Sachin Ahir (who recently joined the Sena) represented Shivdi Assembly seat twice before delimitation of constituencies in 2009," he said.
Ahir, as NCP candidate, won thrice-in 1999 and 2004 from Shivdi, and 2009 from Worli, he said. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis recently said the Sena nominee will win from the seat with a "record margin". The other candidates in fray from the segment are Gautam Gaikwad of the Vanchit Bahujan Aaghadi and Abhijit Bichukle, who earlier contested the reality show "Big Boss Marathi". Polling for all 288 Assembly seats in the state will be held on October 21 and counting of votes will take place on October 24.