A tale of four constituencies

Apr 28th, 2009 | By Elections2009 | Category: Key constituencies

Rahi Gaikwad, Mumbai

Voter loyalty, not party agendas, holds the key in Thane, Kalyan, Bhiwandi and Palghar

The areas neighbouring Mumbai have doubled their political strength with the erstwhile constituencies of Thane and Dahanu (ST), after delimitation, being split into Thane, Kalyan, Bhiwandi and Palghar (ST). With a high population density, the size of the electorate in each of these Lok Sabha seats is stupendous, the lowest being Bhiwandi with 14,85,469 voters.

All four constituencies go to the polls with Mumbai in the third phase on April 30. Marathi, Muslim, migrant and tribal votes comprise the largely urban vote base.

The Shiv Sena has a stranglehold over Thane and Kalyan. Marathi voters here remain loyal to the party, which is fielding Vijay Chowgule in Thane and Anand Paranjpe in Kalyan. Mr. Chowgule’s opponent Sanjeev Naik is the son of NCP Minister Ganesh Naik.

A winner

The Paranjpe surname is a winner in the Thane-Kalyan belt. People speak fondly of Anand Paranjpe, whose father Prakash Paranjpe won Thane in 2004 for the fourth consecutive time since 1996. In Kalyan, Mr. Paranjpe faces the NCP’s Vasant Davkhare. The electorate here is diverse, comprising Hindus, North Indians, Gujaratis, Sindhis, Dalits and Muslims. This district saw violent attacks on North Indians at the end of last year, which could help the Bahujan Samaj Party’s Khan Kamruddin A. Gani.

The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) could also pose a threat to the Sena. The party is fielding Rajan Raje from Thane and Vaishali Darekar-Rane from Kalyan. MNS president Raj Thackeray’s rallies in these parts have drawn huge crowds. However, since this is the MNS’ first election, it’s difficult to estimate its hold ong the voters.

Muslim-dominated Bhiwandi falls within the Sena bastion. All the major candidates here are non-Muslims. The Congress has put up Suresh Taware, the BJP Jagannath Patil and the Samajwadi Party R. R. Patil (not the former Deputy Chief Minister).

Support for the Congress comes from most quarters. The SP may not hurt the Congress too much as its draw among the Muslims seems weak. “Everyone neglects the Muslims. There has been no recent welfare work in Bhiwandi, rail connectivity is poor, there is a crying need for schools, illiteracy is on the rise, healthcare is in shambles, but no one cares,” rues Salim Yusuf Sheikh. It is short-sighted to dismiss the BJP in Bhiwandi. As some point out, with up to 20 candidates in the fray, a great deal of vote division is likely. This will benefit the BJP. Moreover, a part of Hindu-dominated Kalyan, which falls in Bhiwandi, appears to unequivocally support for the BJP. The presence of Agri and Kunbi communities, traditional Sena supporters, could also help the party.

The tribal constituency of Palghar, 100 km from Mumbai, encompasses the former Dahanu seat, which went to Congress’ Damodar Barku Shingada in 2004. He beat BJP’s Chintaman Wanga. The duo is pitched against each other yet again in 2009.

Power crisis, unemployment and labour issues are some of the concerns in Palghar, where many are wage labourers. Voter loyalty, not agendas, is likely to determine the fortunes of Congress-NCP and Sena-BJP in these four constituencies. So far, they seem even.

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