BJP burns midnight oil to keep Maharashtra dream alive

Approaching the polls on a war footing since its split with the Shiv Sena, which enjoys considerable advantages in key areas of Maharashtra, the BJP is trying to turn the tide in its favour by roping in everyone from Modi to Amit Shah and Nitin Gadkari to Smriti Irani

The split with the Shiv Sena seems to have given the BJP an additional sense of urgency and purpose with regard to the Maharashtra assembly polls on October 15. Determined to take no chances, the BJP is rolling out all its big guns — from key vote catcher PM Narendra Modi and party national president Amit Shah to Union ministers Nitin Gadkari and Smriti Irani.

Can they win it? Amit Shah, Smriti Irani and Nitin Gadkari
Can they win it? BJP chief Amit Shah, HRD Minister Smriti Irani and Union Minister for Transport and Rural Development Nitin Gadkari

While Modi is slated to address a public rally in Mumbai today and follow it up with many more across the state in the span of a week, Shah was closeted with top state leaders in a marathon meeting, at Eknath Khadse’s bungalow in Nariman Point, which began on Thursday night and went on till 3 am yesterday. The BJP chief took an update on all the key regions from the state leaders, and the party has also decided to bring in top central leaders to Maharashtra, who have been given charge of particular areas and have been asked to convene meetings even at the grassroots.

Shaina N C, treasurer, Maharashtra BJP, said, “There was a meeting at Nariman Point where we discussed the party’s strategy for the upcoming polls and how to win the maximum possible seats in the state.”

Union Fertiliser Minister Ananth Kumar
Union Fertiliser Minister Ananth Kumar

Union Fertiliser Minister Ananth Kumar, the Member of Parliament from Bengaluru, has been in the city since Tuesday because he has been given charge of the Mumbai, Thane and Konkan regions. With 36 seats in Mumbai, 24 in Thane and 15 in Konkan — 75 in all — these three regions make up more than one-fourth of the 288 assembly seats in Maharashtra. They are all the more important for the BJP as they are all strongholds of the Sena, which is set to put up a tough fight.

Challenges
The BMC, Thane and Kalyan-Dombivli Municipal Corporation are all held by the Sena as the largest party. In Thane city, the BJP has no MLA, while the Sena has all three and in Mumbai, the BJP had fared better than the Sena in the last assembly elections, but the Sena had won 76 seats in the BMC elections, while the BJP had emerged victorious in only 31.

Leaving nothing to chance: While PM Narendra Modi will be the star campaigner and BJP chief Amit Shah will supervise the elections overall, Union minister Ananth Kumar has been given charge of the Mumbai, Thane and Konkan regions. Smriti Irani will focus on the Pune and Nasik belt and Nitin Gadkari is slated to take charge of Vidarbha.  FILE PICS
Leaving nothing to chance: While PM Narendra Modi will be the star campaigner and BJP chief Amit Shah will supervise the elections overall, Union minister Ananth Kumar has been given charge of the Mumbai, Thane and Konkan regions. Smriti Irani will focus on the Pune and Nasik belt and Nitin Gadkari is slated to take charge of Vidarbha. FILE PICS

In many areas of Konkan, like Sawantwadi, Kudal and Alibaug, the BJP will be contesting for the first time in the last two-and-a-half decades, as these seats were held by the Sena in the sharing arrangement. Similarly, in Thane district, the BJP has not contested in prominent seats like Kalyan East, Kalyan West, Mira-Bhayander, Kalwa-Mumbra, Kopri-Panchpakhadi and others, thus leaving it vulnerable on the grassroots support front.

In Mumbai, too, the BJP has contested only on 10-odd assembly seats, whereas Sena has done so on nearly 26. Thus, the BJP will find the going tough in areas like Bhandup, Lalbaug, Worli, Bandra (East) and Dadar.

Panacea?
“To tackle all this, key figures from the Central leadership have been roped in. Till now, Ananth Kumar has visited nearly three Lok Sabha constituencies in Mumbai and will also be visiting assembly constituencies. We are also holding meetings at the grassroots level, and the focus next week will be on Thane and Konkan. We are not going to leave any stone unturned for the elections,” said Niranjan Shetty, chief spokesperson for BJP Mumbai.

Meanwhile, HRD Minister Smriti Irani, who also has the celebrity factor working in her favour, has been given charge of the Pune and Nasik belt, and various other leaders will be appointed for other locations in Maharashtra. It is said Union Minister for Transport and Rural Development Nitin Gadkari will be focusing on Vidarbha, and MoS for Consumer Affairs, Raosaheb Danve, will be given charge of Marathwada.

46: The number of seats won by the BJP in the 2009 Maharashtra assembly polls

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