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Sunday, November 28, 2021

Explained: DNH bypoll after Mohan Delkar’s death – constituency profile and top candidates

The election was necessitated by the death of Mohan Delkar who was one of the four independent MPs in Lok Sabha.

Written by Kamal Saiyed , Edited by Explained Desk |
Updated: October 30, 2021 2:03:52 pm
This is the first time that Shiv Sena and Congress will be fighting as rivals after entering into an alliance in neighbouring Maharashtra. (File)

Bypolls to the Lok Sabha constituency of Dadra Nagar Haveli (DNH), now part of the unified Union Territory of Daman, Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, will be held on October 30. The election was necessitated by the death of Mohan Delkar who was one of the four independent MPs in Lok Sabha. Delkar’s body was found hanging in a room in a private hotel in Mumbai on February 22.

Who are the candidates?

The late Delkar’s wife Kalaben (50) is contesting on a Shiv Sena ticket, while BJP has given the ticket to Mahesh Gavit (44), a former police sub-inspector. The Congress has fielded Mahesh Dhodi (49), a former police head constable. This is the first time that Shiv Sena and Congress will be fighting as rivals after entering into an alliance in neighbouring Maharashtra. The other candidates are Jayshri Panchal from Navsarjan Bharat Party, Milan Korat from Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), and Ganesh Bhujade from Bhartiya Tribal Party (BTP).

Being a seat reserved for tribals, the BJP has deputed former state minister of Gujarat Ganpat Vasava as the constituency in-charge, along with BJP MLAs from Umargam in Valsad district, Raman Patkar, Piyush Desai from Navsari and, Naresh Patel from Gandevi seat in Navsari who is also a cabinet minister). Gujarat state BJP president C R Paatil has done one public meeting here among the Maharashtrian community in DNH. Door-to-door meetings and public meetings were also undertaken by Union Ministers Smriti Irani, Ashwini Vaishnaw, Purshottam Rupala, and former Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis. Shiv Sena leader and MP, Sanjay Raut has been stationed in DNH for the last few days along with Vinayak Raut (MP from Ratnagiri in Maharashtra), Anil Desai (Rajya Sabha MP), Aditya Thackeray (Maharashtra state tourism minister), Gulabrao Patil (Maharashtra government minister). The Congress campaign is conspicuous by its absence of national-level leaders. The counting of votes and results of the elections will be declared on November 3.

Who was Mohan Delkar?

Mohan Delkar’s father, the late Sanjibhai, was the Congress MP from the same constituency in 1967. Although he walked in his father’s footsteps, son Delkar came into his own in this UT, seen as a confluence of Gujarat and Maharashtra, fighting elections on various party tickets and on his own.

Delkar had won his first elections to the Lok Sabha in 1989 as an independent candidate. Later, he was elected from the Congress party in the 1996 elections. He quit the Congress and contested the election on a BJP ticket in 2004. He again joined the Congress and lost the election in 2009 against BJP candidate Natubhai Patel by a margin of 618 votes. He again contested the election on the Congress ticket in 2014 and lost against BJP’s Patel again by a vote margin of 6,214. However, ahead of the 2019 election, Delkar quit the Congress party and contested as an independent candidate and won against BJP candidate Patel by a margin of over 9,000 votes.

In DNH, he runs SSR College of Pharmacy, Arts, Science and Commerce, and a security agency that provides services to the industries. Trouble began when Praful Patel, a former BJP minister when Narendra Modi was chief minister of Gujarat, was appointed administrator of DNH and tussle began between the two leaders over various issues. During the DNH Liberation Day (August 2. 2020) celebration event, Delkar was not allowed to give a public speech at the gathering. His son Abhinav Delkar had in his statements to Mumbai police, mentioned, “My father was humiliated, insulted and even the issues related to the public were not addressed by the administrative officials, who work under the guidance of Administrator Praful Patel.

Delkar’s death

Delkar’s body was found hanging in a room in a private hotel in Mumbai on February 22, along with a 15-page note accusing administrator Praful Patel and eight others, including the Superintendent of Police and district collector of DNH, as responsible for his death. On the basis of statements of Abhinav Delkar, Mumbai’s Marine Drive police station registered an FIR on the charge of abetment to suicide. The police have taken statements of 16 witnesses in the case so far but no arrest has been made.

The Election Commission of India has also barred the entry of administrator Praful Patel in DNH after the Model Code of Conduct set in, while those accused mentioned in the complaint, the Collector and Resident Deputy Collector cum Sub Divisional Magistrate of DNH, Sandeep Singh (IAS, AGMUT 2011) and Apurva Sharma (DANICS), have been transferred to the Department of Personnel and Training, New Delhi, and Deputy Collector (Headquarter) Daman. Sources said that the purpose of the transfer is to prevent them from influencing the election process.

Friction between administration and political leaders

Earlier, bureaucrats from the AGMUT cadre of senior IAS officers were appointed administrators of DNH. Patel is the first political leader – formerly a minister of state for home in the former Modi government – to be appointed administrator in 2016. Sources in the DNH said the conflict started between elected leaders and the administration from 2016 onwards. Congress leader of DNH Prabhu Tokiya said, “The administrative official became more powerful, and several changes were brought by administrative officials by the order of administrator Patel. The elected political leaders of the Silvassa Municipal council and District Panchayat level became powerless; for doing the works of the public they would have to convince the administrative officials and only those works given a green signal by administrators were done. Even for the road, power supply, drainage, the political leaders had to knock on the doors of the administrator to get his consent.”

DNH history

DNH is on the border of the Valsad district in Gujarat and the Palghar district in Maharashtra. The territory was earlier ruled by Portugal and it got liberated in 1954 and became part of India. The majority of the population is tribal. The Central government had given tax exemption in sales tax and income tax to promote employment and industrialization. However, in 2017, after the introduction of GST, the tax exemption into the territory ended.

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The first Lok Sabha election was fought in 1967 and freedom fighter Sanjibhai Delkar won the election as an Indian National Congress candidate. He represented DNH in Parliament for one term, and after a span of 18 years, his son Mohan Delkar contested the election as an independent candidate and won it in 1989.

Industrial growth of the territory

Due to tax exemption, the Micro, Small & Medium Industries (MSME) came up in DNH, majorly in Silvassa headquarters of the territory. The area is also suited for the industry as it is over 200 kilometres away from Mumbai. An office member with the DNH industries federation, on condition of anonymity, said, “The growth of the industries is cheap power rates, nearby Mumbai and tax exemption. Till date, there are over 3,000 MSME industries in DNH which houses over 1.50 lakh labourers coming from different parts of the country majority of UP and Bihar. AS Mumbai is nearby, many firms have corporate offices in Mumbai and manufacturing units in DNH. The majority of the industries are pharmaceuticals, textiles, plastic industries, etc. The annual turnover of the industries is close to Rs. 1 crore during the pre-Covid period.

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