Lok Sabha bypolls in Maharashtra to present a glimpse of straight fight between BJP and Shiv Sena

Though the Shiv Sena is sharing power with the BJP at the centre as well as Maharashtra, the party has been trying to find a chance to denounce its partner ever since they joined the government.

Published: 15th May 2018 04:01 PM  |   Last Updated: 15th May 2018 04:01 PM   |  A+A-

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Express News Service

MUMBAI: Though the Shiv Sena is sharing power with the BJP at the centre as well as Maharashtra, the party has been trying to find a chance to denounce its partner ever since they joined the government. However, except the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) polls early last year the relations between the two parties were never stretched to the brink. But, in the Palghar Lok Sabha constituency both the parties are slated for a head-on fight which has made the by-polls interesting.

The Palghar constituency will see a multi-corner fight. Contrary to expectations, none of the candidates withdrew their nominations on the last day for withdrawing nominations on Monday (May 14). That has left the BJP candidate Rajendra Gavitm, Shiv Sena candidates Shrinivas Vanha, Congress candidate Damoo Shingada, Bahujan Vikas Aghadi (BVA) candidate Baliram Jadhav, CPI-M candidate Kiran Gahala, Marxist Leninist Party of India candidate Shankar Badade and an independent Sandeep Jadhav in the fray.

The by-poll was necessitated due to the death of sitting BJP MP Chintaman Vanga. Shiv Sena, who had never contested the seat in the past and doesn’t even have much of presence in the constituency decided to field Vanga’s son Shrinivas from the seat once he joined the party last month. This came as a big blow to the BJP. According to party leaders, while they had not even started the process for deciding the candidate for the seat, Shrinivas Vanga was misguided to join the Shiv Sena.

The Shiv Sena leaders presented Shrinivas Vanga as a victim of the internal politics of power-hungry BJP while fielding him in the frey. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, publicly expressed his displeasure over it and said that Shiv Sena didn’t even let anyone else contact Vanga before he filed nominations. He also tried to mend ways by suggesting several alternatives. However, the Shiv Sena didn’t budge. Neither the Shiv Sena nor the BJP blinked and now both of them would be contesting against each other.

Chintaman Vanga, an advocate by profession, had represented the erstwhile Dahanu constituency in the late ‘90s in Lok Sabha. He was also a member of legislative assembly from the area. Though he had lost to BVA’s Baliram Jadhav in parliamentary elections of 2009, he was popular in the tribal belt of the constituency. For sharpening his leadership skills Vanga always gave credit to the Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram (VKA) hostel in Talasari which he used to describe as his home during his school days.
The Ashrama prominent centre of right-wing organizations in the area - celebrated its golden jubilee last month when over 35,000 tribals from the area had gathered to listen to RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat.

On this backdrop, Vanga’s son Shrinivas had hardly any exposure in public life. Apart from this major drawback regarding the candidate, the Shiv Sena has just one MLA in this parliamentary constituency as against three out of six of the BJP. But, apart from the surname Vanga, the party is banking on anti-development sentiment in the region. Barring urban area of Vasai and Nalasopara, the constituency covers the tribal area of Palghar, Dahanu, Mokhada, Talasai and Vikramgad tehsils of the district. 

Employment and malnutrition are major issues in this tribal area. Moreover, the tribes have lost land to development projects like a highway in the past. New projects like Mumbai-Baroda expressway and the Bullet train too require land from this area. The locals had earlier opposed the efforts for land acquisition. Issues like these too are likely to be exploited by the Shiv Sena.

BJP candidate Rajendra Gavit is a former minister in Congress government. He had lost to BJP candidate in 2014 by a very thin margin of around 200 votes. “We were eyeing him since then,” Fadnavis told the media when he joined the party last week and his candidature was announced. 

Gavit is the only local trible leader who has his own strong network of workers in the area. This would complement the BJP’s organizational efforts, feel local BJP leaders. They are also banking on the performance of BVS’s Jadhav. Though Jadhav had ended up a distant second in 2014 parliamentary elections, his party has a good hold in Vasai-Nalasopara area. If he is successful in holding up that voting base, it will benefit the BJP by the virtue of splitting up of the opposition votes.

Congress candidate Damu Shingda is a veteran politician from the area who has represented the are in Lok Sabha five times. However, in 2014 his son had polled just about 7,000 odd votes. The factionalism in local Congress party and the age factor are against him.

The BJP has made winning the seat a prestige issue. “We can not accept what they did to us,” Fadnavis said when Shiv Sena fielded Shrinivas Vanga. “Adv Chintaman Vanga dedicated his whole life to develop BJP in the area and hence making BJP win the bypoll would be true tribute to him,” Fadnavis said while asking party members to gear up for the polls.

The elections are slated to be held on May 28 and the results would be out on May 31. It would be interesting to watch how the tussle between the allies takes a turn in the constituency. 

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