As parties step up their election campaigns before polling on April 29, the contest in Thane has narrowed down to a direct fight between the Shiv Sena and the NCP. While there are other contestants in the fray, these two parties are the most visible on the ground and have managed to overshadow others.
In 2014, Sena’s Rajan Vichare had won the seat by a margin of 2.81 lakh votes, defeating Sanjeev Naik of NCP. While Vichare is once against contesting to retain the seat for Sena, NCP has fielded Anand Paranjape, an erstwhile Sena leader from Kalyan.
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After the reorganisation of the constituency in 2008, Thane has six major regions — Ovala-Majiwada, Mira Bhayandar, Kopri-Pachpakhadi, Thane city, Airoli and Belapur. “In the last five years, Belapur and Airoli, which fall in Navi Mumbai and Mira Bhayandar areas, have become alienated. Whatever work has happened, it has been focused on Thane city,” said Akash Joshi, a resident of Airoli. “Why should we vote for someone who has not even bothered to listen to us in the last five years?” he added.
While Vichare has been campaigning in the region since he filed his nomination — several leaders of Sena and BJP, like Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, have also campaigned for him — Paranjape and his team have been campaigning by travelling in local trains, buses and other means of public transportation.
“It is not just to increase the outreach, it is also to understand the issues faced by the people. Most of the residents have to travel as they work in Mumbai or Navi Mumbai and take the public transport,” said an NCP worker.
The NCP is flaunting Paranjape, who is an engineer and has an MBA degree, to attract educated voters. “He has knowledge about the railways and industries. He seems to know what needs to be done to ease the commute on local trains,” said an NCP member.
In Thane city, residents have drawn up a manifesto and presented it to both NCP and Sena leaders. “We will only vote for those who can deliver on our demands. Thane is a growing city with several needs. We need a proper burial ground and better infrastructure. Both parties have positively reacted to the manifesto,” said Kasber Augustine, the convener of Thane Citizens Forum — a group that drew up the manifesto from the suggestions it received from the residents.
While Vichare’s campaign is focussing on the work he has been doing, he has had to face some resentment in certain areas.
NCP leader Jitendra Awhad claimed the MP has not done anything for the people. “He has not made a single comment in the Lok Sabha. Several schemes should have been brought to Thane… the little work that has happened is also because they wanted to provide benefits to the builders and not the common man. The voters will see all of this,” he added.
While the Sena claims to have most of the Marathi votebank on its side, the party hopes residents of Thane city and Mira-Bhayander areas will also favour it. “With our allies BJP and RPI, we are attracting several demographics. Mira-Bhayandar has a sizable population of North Indians, who would vote for us,” said a Vichare aide.
The NCP, on the other hand, has a sizable control over Navi Mumbai. “The region has been loyal to us and the people trust us,” said a party leader.
But regions like Ovala Majiwada is a mixed bag, with NCP trying to woo the Brahmin voters and playing the caste card, residents said.