Millennium Post

Four-way star contest may have unexpected results

On one side is the five times MP of Mumbai and former Union Minister Gurudas Kasmat of Congress fighting against a strong anti-incumbency under-current. On the other hand, the Marathi Manush is divided sharply between an aggressive Gajanan Kirtikar of Shiv Sena and the Marathi film-maker Mahesh Manjrekar from Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) who has been allegedly being close to some under-world elements with regards to his films.

And interestingly, this Mumbai North-West constituency spread more from Juhu to Goregaon, having a large Gujarati, Muslim and Dalit population, has an underdog in Aam Aadmi Party’s  town-planner and social activist candidate of Gujarati origin, Mayank Gandhi, party’s Maharashtra convener.
After the constituency’s delimitation in 2009, Vile Parle East, Santacruz, Bandra and Khar which were part of Mumbai North West were incorporated in the neighboring Mumbai North Central constituency, while Jogeshwari and Goregaon were included in Mumbai North West.

The sprawling constituency comprises elite areas of Juhu and Vile Parle West, which is home to television personalities and Bollywood stars like Amitabh Bachchan. With more than 1.6 million voters, Mumbai North West is home to predominantly Marathi and Gujarati population, along with North Indians, Muslims and Dalits. The constituency has always been a Congress stronghold, except in 1977 and 1980, when the Janata Party wave had swept the country, and the seat was represented by eminent lawyer Ram Jethmalani on a Janata Party ticket first and later on a BJP ticket.

Congress stalwarts like Shantilal Shah, Hari Ramchandra Gokhale were MPs from here. The late actor-turned-politician Sunil Dutt held sway over the area since his first election in 1984. He opted out of the race in 1996 and 1998, after his son actor Sanjay Dutt did not get bail under TADA. Congress nominees lost to Shiv Sena’s Madhukar Sarpotdar.

During the 2005 by-election, Sunil Dutt’s daughter Priya Dutt was elected, defeating Shiv Sena’s Madhukar Sarpotdar by more than 1.71 lakh votes. In 2009, Gurudas Kamat of the Congress who has always represented the Mumbai North East Lok Sabha seat had to shift to Mumbai North West. He defeated Shiv Sena’s Gajanan Kirtikar, a four time legislator from Goregaon by more than 38,000 votes, while the MNS candidate Shalini Thackeray polled more than one lakh votes.

Raj Thackray’s candidate this time Mahesh Manjrekar’s presence is widely being seen by political observers as dampening Kirtikar’s chances, though the Sena leader has put up a brave face and continued his campaign, telling voters that a split in anti-Congress votes would eventually benefit the ruling Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) alliance. Manjrekar is depending on Raj’s appeal and his star-power among Marathi voters, and has scheduled two major public meetings of Raj Thackeray in this constituency. Manjrekar is sure to hurt Shiv Sena severely.

Lack of infrastructure and housing as well as proliferation of slums have been the pressing issues of this constituency. Though the Versova-Ghatkopar metro railway line is likely to commence soon, there is displeasure that its first phase took more than six years to complete. However, the Congress said that rehabilitation of people affected by the metro project took up a lot of time.

Congress legislator from Versova, Baldev Khosa said that Mumbai North West is a ‘mini India’, with a mixed population and a developing area. A multi-cornered contest like in 2009 has not unsettled the Congress, Khosa said. ‘We will focus on development work we have done and our plan if voted to power again,’ he said. He said that inauguration of the first phase of the metro railway line and work on its second phase which passes through this constituency is because of the efforts of the congress MP.

During the last five years, the number of voters increased by nearly a lakh. In 2009, the number of voters were 1,65,7578. Out of the 17,24,956 voters in the constituency, currently, 9,67,609 are men and 7,69,603 are women.

‘Key issues can be solved by better infrastructure projects like a coastal road, elevated railway, metro rail phase two and three, as well as relaxation of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) to develop of old societies on the coastline,’ said Gurudas Kamat, battling strong anti-incumbency.

But the dark horse to watch out for is Mayank Gandhi, of AAP, who has actually started his work in this constituency one year ago through people’s contacts, awareness campaign against corruption and for slum-rehabilitation plan, and identifying youths for volunteers.

Over the last one month, an average of 1600 families in the 38 wards of the Constituency, totaling more than 70,000 families, have been visited door-to-door by AAP volunteers putting forth their anti-corruption message and town-planner Mayank’s alternative plan for Slum Rehabilitation Authority to house each slum-dwelling family in a set-apartment of 440 sq feet each.

AAP has been hyper-active through street-plays (Delhi based team and local teams both), music and dance along with padyatra every afternoon etc on one side, and through the social media (Facebook and Twitter) on the other.
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