Mumbai South Central to witness contest between mass leader and ace political strategist

Mumbai, May 15 There is a close fight between estranged friends and hardcore Shiv Sainiks in Mumbai South Central constituency where Eknath Shinde led Shiv Sena nominee and sitting MP Rahul Shewale is pitted against the Shiv Sena UBT candidates and former MP Anil Desai.

The fight is being portrayed by two sides as a contest between an ace political strategist (Anil Desai) and the mass leader with an ear on the ground (Rahul Shewale).

Incidentally, both Shewale and Desai, who were involved in the legal battle to retain the name and symbol of Shiv Sena, are approaching the voters making a strong claim of real Shiv Sena taking forward the thoughts of party founder later Balasaheb Thackeray.

Shewale, who was elected as the Shiv Sena (United) candidate in the 2014 and 2019 elections riding on PM Modi’s wave is quite optimistic about scoring a hat trick by seeking votes on Modi’s guarantee and Chief Minister Eknath Shinde’s pro-development plank.

Despite a vertical split in the party, Shewale is banking on the Shiv Sena’s Shakha level network apart from the BJP’s poll machinery and the active involvement of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena’s cadres.

Desai, who is contesting a maiden Lok Sabha election, hopes to win the seat banking on the anti-incumbency of the Modi government and also against Shewale.

He is also banking on the sympathy for Uddhav Thackeray across the voters and also on the plank to save democracy and the Constitution.

For him, Shiv Sainiks at the Shakha level accompanied by the cadres of Congress, NCP, communists and representatives of a number of non-government organisations have been a major source of strength.

There are 14 candidates in the fray. A total of 9,51,738 voters comprising 5,10,168 males and 4,41,389 females will cast their voting exercise on May 20.

What is interesting is the Marathi and Muslim voters, which constitute 57.42 per cent and 19.7 per cent respectively, will play a decisive role.

In addition, there are 8.6 per cent SC, 5.49 per cent North Indians, 1.53 per cent Gujarati, 1.1 per cent Christians and 6.16 per cent others. Both Shewale and Desai are striving to seek maximum support from the Marathi Manoos apart from Muslims and others.

Shiv Sena had represented the constituency for a record 20 years from 1989 and 2009 but later Congress regained its hold in the 2009 elections. However, in the last two elections, Shiv Sena (united) won the seats.

The constituency comprises six assembly segments including Anushakti Nagar (NCP), Chembur (Shiv Sena UBT), Dharavi (Congress), Sion Koliwada (BJP), Wadala (BJP) and Mahim (Shiv Sena).

Dharavi is represented by Mumbai Congress Chief Varsha Gaikwad who is contesting from the neighbouring Mumbai North Central seat but her entire poll network is strongly working for Desai.

Malik is not in circulation due to the court order but the decision by his supporters and voters from his constituency, which has a large Muslim population, will play a crucial role in deciding the winning prospects of Shewale and Desai.

The redevelopment of Asia’s largest slum Dharavi is a hot issue being aggressively taken up by Shewale and Desai during campaigning.

Shewale claims the project will be a game changer for the residents of Dharavi as it will not only give them good liveable homes but also lead to the development of an area more than the existing Bandra Kurla Complex.

On the other hand, Desai expresses his party’s support for the Dharavi redevelopment but continues to question the manner in which it was allotted by giving a slew of sops to the developer. He has been making a strong case for the implementation of redevelopment in a transparent manner.

This apart, the deteriorating conditions of slums and transit camps, decaying infrastructure and delays in the implementation of several redevelopment projects are some of the other issues prevalent in the constituency.

Sanjay Jog can be contacted at sanjay.j@ians.in

Source: IANS
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