Will Navi Mumbai polls save face for NCP's Naik?

Or, will the BJP-Shiv Sena tie-up deliver the goods for the alliance in the upcoming NMMC elections?

In less than a week after the results of the Bandra Assembly bypolls, the political atmosphere has warmed up again. The Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) election is likely to be a contest between former National Congress Party (NCP) minister and local satrap Ganesh Naik and BJP’s Manda Mhatre.

Vaishali Waghmare, a Shiv Sena candidate, contesting from Kopar Khairane. Pic/Atul Kamble
Vaishali Waghmare, a Shiv Sena candidate, contesting from Kopar Khairane. Pic/Atul Kamble

Naik, who lost his Assembly seat in the October elections to the BJP, has a lot at stake as his son Sanjeev was also defeated in the Lok Sabha last year. His younger son Sandeep managed to win the Airoli seat, while his nephew Sagar has been NMMC’s mayor.

BJP-Sena alliance
The BJP has Manda Mhatre as their first MLA in Navi Mumbai. Faced with intra-party rivalry, she has a tough task at hand. The local BJP unit has not been backing her in her efforts to register major upsets in civic polls, but big guns from the party such as CM Devendra Fadnavis and others will campaign in the city and also try to keep the flock together.

In a departure from what they did in the Assembly polls, the BJP and Sena have forged an alliance for the NMMC polls. The Shiv Sena, who won the recent Bandra East by-polls, hopes for another victory but the party is riddled with rebellion from the sainiks who expected to fight the polls without the BJP.

Rebel candidates, including Sima Gayakvad and Sandeep Rajput, have filled their nominations inspite of official nominations. They have vowed to defeat the Sena’s official candidates.

First-time contestant Vaishali Waghmare of Shiv Sena (reserved, ward 31 node 1) told Sunday mid-day that the Bandra victory has made the Sena even more confident.

She added that the by-polls win has also increased people’s expectations from Shiv Sena. Apart from first-time candidates, restructuring of the wards has left 22 new wards and a large number of first-time voters 13,313 and 11,786 voters in Airoli and in Belapur have also been registered.

The large number of young voters is likely to be a deciding factor to some extent. Riya D’Costa, a first-time voter from Vashi (sector 4) told us she was excited, especially since her ward has been declared as reserved for women candidates.

The 18-year-old expects a balance between quality public services/amenities and recreational facilities like garden and malls, from the winning candidate. According to Kajal Dahiwale from New Panvel, sector 4, narrow roads and parking are the main issues in her area.

“Potholes and stray dogs are also on the rise,” she said. Dahiwale would also like to see new local trains running on the Harbour line, replacing the age-old local trains. Although satisfied with the development in Navi Mumbai, Khandeshwar-based Trushali Ghate, 19, feels let down by how little attention has been paid to the maintenance.

About the NMMT bus service, she hopes for an improvement in the frequency of buses for the inter-city transport. “The winning candidate should aim to maintain developed areas to keep the development going,” she says.

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