Election 2019: Shiv Sena's present and murky past battle for future

Updated: Mar 29, 2019, 15:20 IST | Dharmendra Jore | Mumbai

Gajanan Kirtikar has his task cut out in his electoral fight against former Sena strongman Sanjay Nirupam in Mumbai North-West constituency

MP Gajanan Kirtikar
MP Gajanan Kirtikar

Shiv Sena veteran and Member of Parliament Gajanan Kirtikar has a huge task ahead of him for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections as he fights former party colleague and now Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam in the Mumbai North-West constituency. The sitting MP said the battle was not just between the Sena and Congress, but more between a Sena loyalist and the person who had betrayed Sena founder, the late Bal Thackeray, 15 years ago.

MP Gajanan Kirtikar said it was time the Sena taught Nirupam a lesson by defeating him in the segment that he has asked for from the Congress this year. Kirtikar isn't taking the contest lightly knowing the kind of fiery opponent he is pitted against. "Nirupam is a seasoned politician. He can go to any extent to reach out to the voters. But we're all ready to face any eventuality," he said.

"People know who betrayed Balasaheb and consistently spoke ill against the first family of the Sena. I don't need to tell the voters who they should send home packing," said Kirtikar.

Gajanan Kirtikar won an LS seat from the Mumbai North West constituency in 2014
Gajanan Kirtikar won an LS seat from the Mumbai North West constituency in 2014

Nirupam, who was sent to Rajya Sabha twice by the Sena, had to quit the membership of the Upper House mid-term because he had taken on some powerful people in the then NDA government. Sena chief had reportedly asked him to resign, following which Nirupam joined the Congress.

Nirupam made remarkable progress in the Congress, against which he had fought a Lok Sabha election, and won the next Lok Sabha from Mumbai North against the BJP. He lost the seat though in 2014, but only to emerge as the president of Mumbai Congress, the post he was removed from early this week because of infighting in the party. However, the party gifted him a ticket from North-West as part of the barter.

Kirtikar banks on his work

Sena's vibhag pramukh and MLC Anil Parab, who is the main strategist behind Kirtikar's campaign, however, rued the sacking of Nirupam. "We wanted a sitting Mumbai Congress president defeated by Kirtikar. But the Congress removed him ahead of the polls taking the delight away from us. Anyway, we will beat Nirupam very convincingly," Parab insisted.

Sena's thrust will be on the claims that Kirtikar has done well as a first-time MP, especially in terms of resolving the suburban railway issue. "Kirtikar's area begins from the Andheri railway station. At least half of the 17 lakh voters in North-West use local trains for their daily commute and since Kirtikar has been a member of the Parliamentary Committee of Railways, he has enabled escalators, FOBs and ROBs, lifts, drinking water at the railway stations and has got a huge grant approved for the fifth and sixth line under MUTP-3," said Parab.

Kirtikar, in the past five years, has spent Rs 46.50 crore of government funds in his constituency. "I have catered to a cross-section of this cosmopolitan constituency," he said, adding that his non-corrupt image, non-controversial politics and friendly nature have always been his USP in the five Assembly and one Parliamentary elections he has won till date.

Marathi voters' backing

The power equation in this region is divided between the Sena and BJP, with three seats each in the state Assembly. Their total vote share comes to six lakhs, the number, if retained should win Kirtikar the seat. The 6.15 lakh Marathi voters would be a deciding factor for the Sena. "I have ensured jobs for the Marathi people through the Sthanik Lokadhikar Samiti since its inception decades ago," the MP said.

What could turn the tables here is the second largest chunk of 3 lakh Muslim voters which may be wooed by the Congress and other non-BJP/Sena parties. Parab, however, said that the last elections had got Sena a significant Muslim vote share. "We're confident of getting them with us this time as well." Denying any faction feud, Kirtikar said that the BJP workers and leaders were with him wholeheartedly. "I have worked all my life for BJP candidates like Ram Naik. The BJP workers respect my contribution and reciprocate," he affirmed.

Another assumption that gives Kirtikar great hope is the dislike that Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) has for Nirupam. "The MNS voters will not vote for Nirupam, but support Kirtikar who has been nice to them always," said Parab.

Also Read: Mumbai: Shiv Sena 'inducts' BJP candidate in Palghar ahead of Lok Sabha elections

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