The shrinkage of wards following the 50 per cent reservation for women had resulted in a scramble within parties for suitable wards for male corporators,the preference being neighbouring wards. And now,a marked shift is being seen in the contest with rival parties in several wards.
Heavyweights are pitted against each other in many wards,and in some wards reserved for women,keen contests are expected between strong candidates. Some of the BMCs prominent faces are contesting against each other in several wards while some other wards are set for contests between relatives of political heavyweights and old-timers.
BJP heavyweight Bhalchandra Shirsat,for instance,is set to contest against former BJP loyalist and now Congress candidate Pravin Chheda in Ward 124. Three-time corporator Chheda recently quit BJP to join Congress after his ward was marked for Women-Open. His request for a ticket from a neighbouring ward was not entertained. Chheda is popular among the Gujarati community in Ghatkopar,and the area has a considerable presence of Gujarati families. He is expected to give a tough fight to Shirsat,who,too,has been displaced from his earlier ward.
Ward 55,a traditional Shiv Sena stronghold,will see Shiv Sena candidate Rajul Patel and a former Shiv Sainik Jyotsna Dighe,both women,and both outgoing corporators,battling it out.
Patel had convincingly defeated Narayan Rane-supporter Anita Bagwe in Ward 54 in 2007. Dighe,who had quit the Sena to join the Congress,was among Rane supporters who made it to BMC with a large margin the last time. Patel is using the Sena’s usual emotive issues,while Dighe is turning the sons-of-the soil issue on its head and asking what a series of Sena corporators of Ward 55 have done for the Maratha community. Ward 55 is expected to be one of the most keenly contested wards.
In Byculla’s Ward 204,the Akhil Bharatiya Sena’s Vandana Gawli takes on first-timer Congress candidate Samir Chavan. Vandana’s brother-in-law,don-turned-politician Arun ‘Daddy’ Gawli and Samir’s father,sitting Byculla MLA Madhu Chavan,are old rivals. Before the delimitation in 2009,this Assembly constituency was won by Gawli in 2004 after he trounced Chavan,then a sitting legislator.
From Chavan’s barbs regarding alleged suspect tactics used by Gawli’s men to coax voters to polling stations in the 2009 Assembly election (when Chavan won back his seat from Gawli who was managing his campaign from a jail cell in Taloja) to allegations made by the Gawli family against the legislator when part of the Dagdi Chawl gym was demolished a couple of years back,the rivalry between the two families has been on. With a thick slice of the island city’s building redevelopment pie in this area,elections here are always a juicy affair. Samir will have his MLA father’s political clout to back him,while outgoing corporator Vandana will have her family’s die-hard supporters rooting for her.
BJP veteran Manoj Kotak will have to fight hard in ward 103 against Jaiprakash Shetty of Congress. The ward is known to be a Congress stronghold as the candidate will be backed by MLC Charan Singh Sapra. The seat was earlier won by Congress’s A K Sokhi with a margin of over 1500 votes.
The fight for Ward 1 in Dahisar Kandarpada will also be interesting with Sena MLA Vinod Ghosalkar’s son Abhishek pitted against Congress veteran from the area Rajendra Chaubey.
Ward 148 in Chembur,known for slum pockets of Rahul Nagar,will also see an interesting face-off with MLA Chandrakant Handore fielding his wife Sangeeta Handore against RPI-A’s Sneha Bhalerao. The RPI-A corporator,Baba Bansod,was denied ticket and is set to field his daughter Pragati Bansod as an Independent candidate.
The fight for Ward 50 is also expected to be close. Shiv Sena’s Raju Padhye,who won the byelection necessitated by the death of Congress corporator RR Pillai,will be pitted against Congress candidate Sameer Desai,nephew of MP Gurudas Kamat.