Mumbai: Soon after being named the Congress candidate for Mumbai North Lok Sabha seat, actress Urmila Matondkar appeared to consciously shed her image as a glamour doll in shorts and slipped into comfortable but eye-catching saris and loose-sleeved blouses.
These would be her glad rags for the rough and dusty poll campaign in the blistering summer heat during the poll season.
In the past few days, she has already drawn attention by her ‘politically correct, mature comments’ on various issues concerning the commoners, middle-classes and the elite alike.
Virtually mobbed by the paparazzi on Friday afternoon at the Mumbai North Congress Party office, she graciously took all queries from the media in the presence of a beaming District President Ashok Sutrale and other highly-charged leaders and workers.
Marathis and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) sympathisers alike cocked their ears when she invoked the teachings of the legendary 20th century social reformer of Maharashtra, Pandurang Sadashiv Sane, famous as Sane Guruji, instantly endearing her to the locals.
Always smiling, she retorted boldly, questioning the ruling dispensation’s policies vis-a-vis religion, freedom of choice, patriotism and the like, setting the tone for her campaign, which promises to be mean and challenging.
Interestingly, Mumbai North – with 17.83 lakh voters – comprises a majority of nearly 40 percent Gujaratis, followed by Maharashtrians, North Indians and the minorities like Muslims and Christians, Jains and Parsis.
“However, there were apprehensions of division in the crucial Marathi votes, which will now be prevented by the entry of Urmilaji Matondkar,” District Congress Working President Ghanshyam Dubey told IANS. He will be among those entrusted a key role in directing the Matondkar campaign.
But the local BJP is unfazed by Matondkar’s charm and dismissively claimed she is “no challenge” at all to the incumbent Gopal Shetty, who speaks fluent Gujarati and is familiar to the locals here.
Mumbai BJP Vice President and the Mumbai North in-charge, wellknown lawyer J.P. Mishra, explained that despite Matondkar, Shetty’s winning margin, which was around 4.47 lakh in 2014 during the ‘Modi wave’, will now jump to 5.50 lakh in 2019.
Despite the criticism, the Congress appears buoyed by Matondkar’s nomination and is supremely optimistic that the seat – once considered a BJP bastion – would return to the party. In the past, it has elected stalwarts like the legendary Communist leader S.A. Dange (1952), Defence Minister V. K. Krishna Menon (1957, 1962), the firebrand Mrinal Gore or ‘Paniwalai Bai’ (1977), Ravindra Varma (1980) and Anoophand Shah (1984).