A three-cornered fight is on the cards in the North-East Mumbai Lok Sabha constituency as sitting NCP MP Sanjay Dina Patil is facing a tough challenge from BJP’s Kirit Somaiya and Aam Aadmi Party’s Medha Patkar to retain the seat.
The constituency has by and large remained loyal to Congress since 1967, but interestingly no candidate has won two consecutive terms. The only exception was Subramanian Swamy who had won on the trot as Janata Party leader in 1977 and 1980.
BJP has so far won thrice with Jayawantiben Mehta in 1989, Pramod Mahajan in 1996 and Kirit Somaiya in 1999.
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The constituency consists of Assembly segments of Mulund, Vikhroli, Bhandup West, Ghatkopar East and Ghatkopar West, and Mankhurd Shivaji Nagar.
Patil had won his debut election in 2009 against BJP’s Somaiya by a slender margin of 2933 votes, mainly due to presence of MNS candidate Shishir Shinde who divided the saffron votes.
When contacted, Patkar said Patil has “failed” to address basic issues like redevelopment of slums, drinking water issue, transportation, roads and sewage in the constituency.
“He (Patil) has not spent even a single penny from the Rajiv Gandhi Awaas Yojana. Many slum dwellers are deprived of benefits due to erroneous policies of NCP,” she said.
Patkar alleged the MP never raised his voice in Parliament on national issues and also on those pertaining to his constituency.
“…We want to change the political system. We have worked not only for the poor but for the middle class as well,” the activist said.
Patil, however, rubbished Patkar’s claims, saying he has fully utilised the MP fund for development of the constituency.
“I am accessible to people in my constituency. We have utilised entire MP fund for carrying out developmental works. I also borrowed from the Rajya Sabha MP fund and Vidhan Parishad member fund for this purpose,” Patil said.
“I have a good chance of winning again. My entire family is working for the people,” Patil claimed.
Political observers feel Somaiya has an edge over Patil, as the NCP leader is more keen on contesting the state Assembly election, due later this year.
However, sources close to Patil said the NCP leader’s prospects are rather bright as Shiv Sena cadres are upset over former BJP chief Nitin Gadkari’s overtures to MNS chief Raj Thackeray, which did not go down well with party president Uddhav Thackeray.
According to political analyst Sandeep Pradhan, Patkar will eat into votes of slum-dwellers who typically are Congress-NCP loyalists, which will work in favour of Somaiya.
“Patkar will get a large number of votes from slum-dwellers. In 2009 elections, these votes had gone to the Congress-NCP,” he said.
Another factor working in favour of BJP is that MNS has not fielded its candidate from the constituency this time.
“The move will prevent consolidation of votes against the saffron combine,” Pradhan observed.
However, Pradhan feels that some sections in BJP may try to put a spanner in Somaiya’s efforts to turn the tide because his relentless tirade against corruption has brought a top party leader under the cloud.