Thane acid test for Shinde

Shinde is personally supervising the poll management for the victory of the party nominee Naresh Mhaske who faces a tough challenge from his former colleague and Shiv Sena (UBT) candidate Rajan Vichare, reports Sanjay Jog

Chief Minister and Shiv Sena chief Eknath Shinde faces an acid test to maintain his supremacy in the Thane constituency which is his home turf, especially after the vertical split in the party in June 2022.

Shinde is personally supervising the poll management for the victory of the party nominee Naresh Mhaske who faces a tough challenge from his former colleague and Shiv Sena (UBT) candidate Rajan Vichare.

Incidentally, it is a fight between two former Thane mayors who have one thing in common — both give credit to their rise in politics to Shiv Sena founder Balasaheb Thackeray and the party’s former Thane district chief Anand Dighe. The fight is being portrayed between a loyalist and a rebel.

Thane has been Shiv Sena’s citadel but the political equations have been changed drastically after Eknath Shinde walked out of the party by staging a rebellion against party chief Uddhav Thackeray and joined hands with BJP.

There are 24 candidates in the fray. The number of total voters rose to 25,07,372 during the 2024 elections against 23,70,903 in 2019 and 20,73,251 in 2014. Thane constituency is witnessing rapid urbanisation with the flourishing real estate development, Metro rail, redevelopment of slums and cluster development of old and dilapidated buildings.

Eknath Shinde

During the present elections, Shinde is reiterating his claim of being a real Shiv Sena while Thackeray, who is resolved to regain the party’s lost glory in Thane, is accusing the Shinde faction of treachery to gain power. After the formal split, a majority of the former corporators and office-bearers migrated to the Shinde faction while very few but committed Shiv Sainiks remained loyal to Thackeray.

Shinde is banking on the army of the former corporators and Shakha level cadres apart from BJP’s poll machinery, association of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, RPI and other organisations for Mhaske’s victory.

The ongoing election is also crucial as Shinde outsmarted the BJP by sticking to his claim over the Thane constituency. Earlier, the names of former MP Vinay Sahasrabudhe, sitting legislator Sanjay Kelkar and former MP Sanjeev Naik were doing the rounds as BJP nominees.

After several rounds of talks amid Shinde’s adamant stand, the BJP finally gave up its claim over the Thane seat. Shinde crossed a major hurdle after former minister and BJP leader Ganesh Naik was pacified by the BJP leadership which asked him to actively work for Mhaske. Naik and his supporters had expressed strong displeasure over Mhaske’s nomination as some of them had tendered their resignations declaring not to work for Mhaske.

Naik’s son and former MP Sanjeev Naik was keen to contest on the BJP ticket as he had already started work in the last six months. However, Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis intervened to calm Naik and his supporters which gave a major relief to Shinde.

By the time, both allies arrived at an understanding and announced Mhaske’s nomination, Vichare, who remained with Thackeray despite a lot of pressure, had reached out to the voters urging them their support to score a hat-trick.

Undeterred by the resources and manpower put up by Shinde and MahaYuti in general, Thackeray is cashing on the support from hardcore Shiv Sainiks, cadres of Congress, NCP, SP, and other like-minded parties for Vichare’s victory.

Thackeray and Vichare are optimistic that the people, who are not happy about the manner in which Shinde took away the party and its symbol, will express their anger through votes in their favour. Moreover, support from Muslims, other minorities and Dalits to Vichare, is another source of strength for him.

Vichare and Mhaske are leaving no stone unturned during their outreach to voters. They are focusing on rallies, corner meetings, visits to various organisations and religious places apart from house-to-house contact. Both have resorted to aggressive campaigning through social media too.

Vichare and Mhaske are promising a speedy transformation of Thane by addressing a slew of issues. The increasing number of railway passengers has put tremendous pressure on the existing Thane railway station so the proposed new railway station between Thane and Mulund is being promised by them for early commissioning.

The rising traffic jams especially due to the construction of the Metro rail corridor, delayed water transport project and mismatch between rising demand for drinking water and its supply, are other key issues prevalent in the constituency.

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