Maharashtra assembly polls: A loyalist hopes to avenge mentor's defeat

Updated: Oct 15, 2019, 12:54 IST | Sanjeev Shivadekar | Mumbai

Shiv Sena's sitting MLA Vaibhav Naik will take on Rane loyalist Ranjit Desai who, fighting as an independent, hopes to avenge mentor's 2014 defeat with tactical support from the BJP

Deepak Kesarkar
Deepak Kesarkar

Of three seats in Sindhudurg, Kudal is set for an interesting battle, even if it may not match the drama of 2014, when Sena's Vaibhav Naik stunned former CM Narayan Rane by 9,000 votes. This time, Rane loyalist Ranjeet Desai will take on Naik.

However, it is not the same as a family member contesting for the seat, and experts and local citizens feel it will be a cakewalk for the Sena, unlike Kankavli and Sawantwadi segments. In Kankvali, Rane's son Nitesh (BJP) will take on the Sena's Satish Sawant, a former Rane associate. In Sawantwadi, minister of state for finance and home department, Deepak Kesarkar (Sena) will take on another Rane aide Rajan Teli (BJP).

Ranjeet Desai
Ranjeet Desai

"Since Rane is not contesting, everyone feels there is no fight or that things have become easier for me," said Naik. "But, for me, this election is no different from earlier polls. I am giving my best. I am confident that citizens will stand by me, the way they did in 2014."

Naik comes from a family of staunch Congress supporters. In 1991, his uncle Shridar was murdered and Rane and his supporters, then with the Sena, were alleged to have ordered the hit. A court absolved Rane and his men of all charges. In 2005, Rane left the Sena, affronted by the elevation Uddhav Thackeray, and joined the Congress. Congress leaders from Konkan filled the vacuum and crossed over to the Sena.

Now, with the Sena putting up an official candidate against Nitesh, an upset BJP is said to be tactically supporting Desai against Naik.

Vaibhav Naik
Vaibhav Naik

Desai confirmed so much, adding that he is confident of winning. "I dare the Sena candidate to exhibit three achievements and development works he has done in the constituency," he said. "Let there be an open debate. If the sitting MLA is able to show his work, I am willing to withdraw."

Desai, however, admitted that he has little time to explain his vision for the region. Nonetheless, both candidates have a common plank while campaigning — to introduce advanced farming technology in the region.

Deepak Kesarkar
Sena candidate Deepak Kesarkar campaigning in Sawantwadi 

"Konkan has very fertile land," said Naik. "Farm products from this region have a good market not only in India, but also overseas. If advanced technology is introduced, the crop output will increase and the cost of production will decrease. This will help improve the earnings of the region's people."

In fact, Naik claimed he has started the process for the large-scale manufacture of packaged kokam sharbat, a popular coastal drink, so that it can be marketed across India and abroad.

Campaigning along similar lines, Deai promises to support a blend of traditional and modern techniques to create a sustainable economy for local farmers.

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