Covering areas of Central Mumbai and parts of the eastern suburbs,the Mumbai North Central Lok Sabha constituency is in sharp focus with a number of political heavyweights and celebrities joining the race for a nomination.
Having been represented by stalwarts like Ahilya Rangnekar of the CPM (1977) and Pramila Dandavate of the Janata Party (1980),the constituency backed former Shiv Sena chief minister Manohar Joshi in 1999. However,despite a stint as the Speaker of the lower house,Joshi faced a shock defeat at the hands of Eknath Gaikwad of the Congress in 2004.
Now,the constituency,which has a reputation of never electing a same person more than once in recent years with the exception of Sharad Dighe of the Congress (1984 and 1991),has been redrawn in the recent delimitation exercise and renamed Mumbai North Central,comprising the new Assembly constituencies of Anushakti Nagar,Chembur,Dharavi,Sion Koliwada,Wadala and Mahim.
While Gaikwad is intent on contesting the polls again,there are reports that the Shiv Sena and the Congress have approached former cricketer Dilip Vengsarkar for contesting from the seat.
Congress MP from Mumbai North East Gurudas Kamat is also said to be interested in the seat as parts of his previous North East constituency like Anushakti Nagar and Chembur has been included in the constituency.
Though it is not clear whether Joshi,now a Rajya Sabha MP,may choose to contest to the Lok Sabha again,the Sena may choose to field its sitting Mumbai South Central MP Mohan Rawle in case it does not get the Mumbai South Lok Sabha seat from the BJP in the seat-sharing exercise. BJP national general secretary and former deputy chief minister Gopinath Munde is learnt to be interested in fielding Poonam Mahajan,his niece and late BJP leader Pramod Mahajans daughter,against Milind Deora of the Congress in Mumbai South seat.
The Sena has denied reports that it may ask Smita Salaskar,wife of encounter specialist Vijay Salaskar who was killed during the 26/11 attacks,to contest the Mumbai North Central seat. The MNS,whose chief Raj Thackeray lives in the constituency,is also likely to field a candidate in the seat to eat into the Marathi votes.
In case the BJP insists on contesting the Mumbai South seat,Rawle who has shifted residence to Shivaji Park may choose to contest from this constituency,which has a substantial Maharashtrian vote base.
After the boundaries of the constituency were redrawn,the Sena-BJP and Congress-NCP alliances are evenly poised. While the Mahim seat will comprise municipal wards from Prabhadevi,Worli,Dadar and Mahim,which are Sena strongholds,Wadala will comprise parts of Naigaon,Matunga,Sion,Shivadi and Prabhadevi. Sion Koliwada has a substantial Dalit,Sikh and south Indian population. The Congress has an edge in Dharavi,Anushakti Nagar and Chembur.