The direct fight between the Shiv Sena and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) in Mahim Assembly constituency will be a high-stakes battle for the city’s Marathi heartland.
The Shiv Sena has fielded sitting legislator Sada Sarvankar while the MNS has fielded former corporator and party spokesperson Sandeep Deshpande. The Congress has fielded Pravin Naik.
Politically conscious and self-aware Dadar is the heart of Marathi-speaking central Mumbai. It is the home of the Shiv Sena and the MNS not just because the Shiv Sena and MNS headquarters are located here but also because it was in Dadar-Shivaji Park that both parties were born. Shivaji Park is where the late Sena supremo Bal Thackeray addressed his party workers annually at the Dussehra rally. In November 2012, Bal Thackeray was cremated at Shivaji Park. Now, a memorial to the Shiv Sena founder announced by the state government will also stand in Dadar, at the sea-facing mayoral bungalow.
The biggest blow for the Shiv Sena came in the 2009 Assembly polls and 2012 civic polls when the MNS won the Mahim Assembly seat and all seven corporator seats respectively. Dadar, considered a Shiv Sena stronghold since the party’s inception, is home to lakhs of middle-class Maharashtrians, a traditional support base of the Shiv Sena. And yet, the MNS defeated the Shiv Sena in both polls. The Shiv Sena wrested the seat back in 2014 and six corporator seats in 2017 civic polls.
This time, the MNS has been countering the Shiv Sena’s campaign on national issues such as Article 370 by raising local issues such as parking, footpaths, bad roads and potholes.
“These are the issues that affect the people and their lives here. Since these issues have not been resolved, people want change in the constituency,” said Deshpande while addressing a gathering on Bal Govinddas road in Dadar.
According to MNS leaders, the party is banking on Deshpande’s work as a corporator and the issues taken up by him. “He raised the issue of bad roads and potholes and had also gone to jail for it. So, we are projecting him as one who can be the people’s voice,” an MNS leader said.
Some of the issues in the constituency include redevelopment of old buildings, parking, illegal hawking and bad roads, among others. However, Sena leaders say that it has been focusing on the work carried by Sarvankar and highlighting the government decisions including scrapping of Article 370 as well. “I have taken up lot of issues such as redevelopment of old buildings and others and people will vote me back,” said Sarvankar.