Even though NCP managed to swap the Raigad Lok Sabha constituency with Congress, its high profile candidate and Maharashtra water resources minister Sunil Tatkare may not have a cakewalk during the elections.
Tatkare is locked in a tough battle with five-time MP Anant Gite of Shiv Sena, former police officer Sanjay Apranti of AAP and PWP’s Ramesh Kadam – an ex-NCP MLA. Congress stalwart A R Antulay is sulking because the seat swap happened without consulting him since he represented the constituency for four terms. However, party sources say he will not harm interests of the ruling alliance candidate.
Raigad constituency, about 130 kms away from Mumbai, has six Assembly segments – Pen, Alibaug, Shrivardhan, Mahad, Dapoli and Guhaghar. Pen and Shrivardhan were earlier part of the erstwhile Kolaba constituency while Mahad, Dapoli and Guhaghar were in Ratnagiri Lok Sabha constituency. The Pen and Alibaug Assembly segments are with Peasants and Workers Party (PWP), Mahad and Dapoli with Shiv Sena, Shrivardhan and Guhaghar with NCP.
Tatkare is legislator from Shrivardhan while state NCP chief Bhaskar Jadhav represents Guhaghar. Over the years, Congress has lost its hold over the region. “Tatkare is not even a leader of his own district and not on good terms with his own party men Bhaskar Jadhav and Uday Samant. How can one expect him to lead the people of the area?” asked PWP leader S P Jadhav.
Tatkare has done nothing to establish himself as a leader and does not have a vision for development. It is the PWP which has fought battles of the people, Jadhav said adding that infighting in the NCP and unrest between the Congress unit and Antulay will benefit them. However, Tatkare rubbished the allegations saying had he not worked for development, he would not have been an MLA for 15 years. “I am meeting all leaders and office-bearers of Congress and NCP and will unitedly handle the campaign and am confident of my win,” he expressed.
On the contrary, Tatkare and PWP leaders say Anant Gite, who has represented the constituency for five terms, has proved to be ineffective.So much so that Shiv Sena leader Ramdas Kadam has openly stated that he will not work for Gite. “I have told the party leadership that I will campaign for the party in rest of the state, except Raigad,” Kadam told.
The agitation against SEZ in Raigad was successful because of PWP agitation, the party leaders claim. The sprawling constituency with over 10 lakh voters is situated in the coastal Konkan region in South Maharashtra. It has been represented by Antulay and PWP’s Dinkar Patil and Ramshet Thakur twice each.
Gite became a minister and represented Raigad for five terms but the ‘kul kayda’ (a law which gives ownership right to cultivator of the land), is non-existent in the region, sources say.
About 80 tmc of Koyna water is released into the sea and passes through Raigad, but Gite has never thought of how it can be utilised for agriculture and to resolve water problems in the constituency, his critics say. “The khots (zamindars) are with the Congress. There is large scale unemployment and industrial units in Chiplun, Mahaad and Ratnagiri are in bad state. Tatkare has no mass base here,” locals in the area say.
Meanwhile, in a boost to PWP, MNS has pledged support to its candidate Ramesh Kadam and will not field a nominee. On the other side, AAP plans to highlight corruption allegations against Tatkare in the irrigation department, but the minister says the charges have no substance. PWP leader Jayant Patil said there is no impact of AAP in Raigad and whatever votes the candidate takes will be that of the NCP and Congress.
“Our votes are fixed as we have a good base. Besides, Antulay has openly rebelled against the official nominee of the Congress and NCP. He is with us and has vote base of over 1.25 lakh. Tatkare is trying to meet him but he is not interested. Sena leader Ramadas Kadam is also upset and not working for Anant Gite,” Patil said.
According to political observers, Gite has always won because of PWP support, but, he never utilised the MP fund for works initiated by the party.
However, Gite’s supporters say the constituency will stand by “bow and arrow” (the symbol of Shiv Sena). Congress sources say despite getting support from PWP for Lok Sabha elections, in Raigad zilla parishad Shiv Sena did not support PWP. Congress leaders say their fight in the district was always with PWP and Shiv Sena, and NCP in some areas. But, the district party unit is trying to resolve the anger among Antulay’s supporters and unitedly working for Tatkare.