WITH the last date for withdrawal of nominations ending on Monday, the stage is set for a multi-cornered fight with the main contest between estranged allies Shiv Sena and Bharatiya Janata Party in the bypoll to the Palghar Lok Sabha constituency scheduled for May 28. While the Sena has fielded Srinivas Wanga, the son of late BJP MP Chintaman Wanga, he will take on former Congress minister Rajendra Gavit, who is the BJP’s candidate. Besides, Baliram Jadhav from the Bahujan Vikas Aghadi (BVA), Damodar Shingada of the Congress and Kiran Gahala from the CPI(M) are in the fray.
Of the six Assembly segments in the Palghar Lok Sabha constituency, the BVA has MLAs in Vasai, Nallasopara and Boisar constituencies while the BJP has MLAs in Dahanu and Vikramgad. The Sena has a lone MLA from the Palghar assembly segment. A constituency with a mixed peri-urban and rural population with a very large tribal population, major issues here include malnutrition and poor health infrastructure, alongside the tardy implementation of the Forest Rights Act. In fact, thousands of tribals from this constituency participated in the farmers’ long march held in March by the CPI(M) demanding the transfer of forest land to tillers. In addition, there is also opposition among tribals for an MMRDA water supply scheme for municipal areas from the Surya dam.
In Vasai and Nallasopara segments, however, the main issues include illegal construction and water scarcity.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls that the Sena-BJP contested in an alliance, the BJP’s Chintaman Wanga won with a huge margin, polling 5,33,201 votes in comparison to the BVA’s Baliram Jadhav, who polled 2,93,681 votes. Wanga’s death necessitated the bypoll. “During my tenure as MP from 2009-14, the Dahanu to Churchgate local was started that has been helping a lot of people. The work of piped gas was also started but it has been delayed,” Jadhav told
The Indian Express. Jadhav further said that the constituency is unique, with urban, coastal and hilly areas in it. “Our three sitting MLAs will help us,” he said.
Meanwhile, the BJP received support from the Vivek Pandit-led Shramjeevi Sanghatana, which has been working in the tribal belt. The Ramdas Athawale-led Republican Party of India has also supported the BJP candidate.
The Shiv Sena is contesting this Lok Sabha seat for the first time and is banking on sympathy among tribal voters for Wanga family. “There is a certain section who are staunch followers of the Wangas. Besides, in the past couple of months, we have been able to gain control over several local bodies such as Wada, Jawhar, Palghar and Mokhada and also Zilla Parishads and Panchayat Samitis. It will work in our favour,” said Ravindra Phatak, Sena legislator who is the party in-charge for the bypoll.
Aaditya Thackeray is also scheduled to lead a rally here on May 17.
The CPI(M), meanwhile, hopes that the recent farmers’ long march on the issue of the Forest Rights Act will play a major role in voting. It has a strong base in Dahanu and Vikramgad assembly constituencies and also a sizeable presence in Palgahr and Boisar.
“The long march had an impact that forced the government to act on it. Besides, we have taken up issues opposing the land acquisition for Bullet train and the Expressway project. All these issues are connected with tribal people. So, we hope that it will have an impact on the polls,” said Ashok Dhawale, CPI(M) leader.
Congress’s Shingada said people are disappointed with the BJP over the last four years. “People will show their anger in the polls. Besides, the Sena and BJP are fighting daily on several issues. This will benefit us,” said Shingada.