IF SEVEN-TERM MLA and BJP candidate from Wadala, Kalidas Kolambkar, wins an eighth term, it will only be on the strength of his own reputation as the area’s long-standing representative, and not because of the party he is in, nor the efforts of its ally Shiv Sena.
Kolambkar (69), who was initially with Sena, won on a Congress ticket in the last two elections — one of the few to buck the Modi wave of 2014. This time, he crossed over to the BJP just before the Assembly elections, and to the shock of the Sena, was handed the ticket.
An upset former mayor and Sena corporator, Shraddha Jadhav, who was eying the Wadala ticket, is keeping distance from Kolambkar’s campaign. “Very few Sena workers can be seen in Kolambkar’s campaign. He quit the party when Narayan Rane had resigned from Sena. Along with Rane, he had also joined Congress. He goes with power and is not loyal,”said a local Sena worker.
Since Kolambkar was poached by the BJP just before the elections, BJP workers are also treating him as an outsider.
Wadala constituency comprises old BDD Chawl buildings and police colonies. Redevelopment has been a key issue here in every election. While Congress had fielded Shivkumar Lad, VBA and MNS have given tickets to Laxman Pawar and Anand Prabhu, respectively. Lad, who is not too well known, is facing the heat from local Congress workers, who say the party could have chosen a better candidate who had an active presence on the ground.
In 2014, Kolambkar got elected by a whisker — just 800 votes. While BJP’s Mihir Kotecha received 37,740 votes, Kolambkar won by securing 38,540 votes, one of the closest fights in a year dominated by the Modi wave.
Working in his favour is the fact that he has been around for 29 years as the area MLA, and is known to be accessible and has a good rapport with his voters. “The best thing about Kolambkar is he has a personal connect with the people. Irrespective of any party, people know him as a person. This always gives him an edge over other candidates,” said Sunil Haldankar, a supporter.
Dhiren Khanolakar, a resident of Naigaon and a member of Purandare Bachao Samiti recalled Kolambkar’s assistance in saving Purandare Stadium from BMC’s plan of turning it into private club. “He took us to meet Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and the construction work for the club was stopped. His accessibility to the people is key.”
Lad says Kolambkar is on a weak wicket for the very reason that he has been around too long. “He has been the MLA for over 30 years but if you see the condition of the constituency, it has not changed much. He was in Sena, he quit and joined Congress and now he is with BJP. But issues like redevelopment of old chawls, slum redevelopment and water shortage still exist. Many residents, who have been shifted to transit camps under the redevelopment project, are yet to be rehabilitated in their original areas.”
He added, “I will benefit from all those in Sena and BJP who are upset with Kolambkar. We are going for resolution of long pending issues.”
Defending his decision to hop parties, Kolambkar said, “I have joined BJP so that development works in this constituency can speed up. People chose me since I work for the betterment of my locality and their lives.”
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