The Mumbai North West Lok Sabha constituency is set to witness an interesting four-cornered battle between sitting Congress MP Gurudas Kamat, Shiv Sena leader Gajanan Kirtikar, AAP’s Mayank Gandhi and movie director Mahesh Manjrekar from MNS.
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.
In 2009, Gurudas Kamat had won Mumbai North West by more than 38,000 votes, after a multi-cornered contest.
However, with Aam Aadmi Party in the fray this time, besides an Maharashtra Navnirman Sena’s (MNS) candidate like Mahesh Manjrekar, political observers have said that the final result would be unpredictable.
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 sprawling constituency comprises elite areas of Juhu and Vile Parle West, which is home to television personalities and Bollywood stars like Amitabh Bachchan.
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 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.
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.