Contesting the Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg Lok Sabha seat as an independent candidate, 39-year-old Pandharinath Amberkar says that if it was not for the proposed oil refinery in Nanar, now cancelled, he would not have entered the poll fray. A determined supporter of the refinery project that was denotified by the state government in March, Amberkar maintains that the opposition to the project was based on rumours and misgivings.
“I have no political background or ambition. I am contesting the elections only to draw attention to the importance of the oil refinery project in Konkan. I don’t know how many votes I will get but every vote I get will be testimony to the number of people who are in favour of this project that would have brought enormous development to the region,” said Amberkar. “The protestors don’t want to listen and political parties supporting them too have turned a deaf ear to our argument. It is hence that I am using this democratic election platform to drive home my point.”
A resident of the eco-sensitive Kumbhavade village that was untouched by the project, Amberkar runs a transport business and heads the Konkan Jankalyan Samiti. Contesting the Lok Sabha polls on the symbol of an LGP cylinder, Amberkar said he does not have the election wherewithal like major political parties but he has about 25 people helping him campaign. Click here for more election news
His election pitch is made on a leaflet that elaborates on his stand over the Nanar Oil Refinery project and reads, ‘Me Kokancha Chowkidar (I am the watchman of Konkan)’. He says that the project would have brought employment not only to the 14 villages in Ratnagiri and two in Sindhudurg district that would have been affected by the project but to the entire region. “Make no mistake. This project was not just for these villages. It would have elevated the entire Konkan region. That is why I think anyone supporting the project in the two districts will vote for us,” says Amberkar.
Amrutanand Tambade is a gemologist who migrated to Pune for work. “I live like a bachelor in Pune. My parents, wife and children live here in Konkan. Had I found employment here, I would not have to move to Pune. I support the project because there are several people like me who have had to live away from their families because there are no employment opportunities here.”
The concerns over environmental hazards of the project are based on unscientific findings, said Avinash Mahajan, who campaigns for Amberkar. “People were administered oaths in temples to oppose the project. How regressive is that?” he said.
Amberkar said that owing to the stand he took over the project, many had boycotted the buses he runs from Ratnagiri to Mumbai and other cities. Some still continue to do that, he claims. “But this election is for us to be heard. We will be heard,” he said.