Race On For South Mumbai LS Constituency: BJP Aims To Unseat Shiv Sena's (UBT) Arvind Sawant

Race On For South Mumbai LS Constituency: BJP Aims To Unseat Shiv Sena's (UBT) Arvind Sawant

The BJP had held this seat twice in the past when its leader Jaywantiben Mehta got elected in 1996 and 1999. But since 1999, the party has not been able to get this important seat

S BalakrishnanUpdated: Sunday, February 18, 2024, 11:27 PM IST
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Arvind Sawant | Facebook

South Mumbai Lok Sabha constituency will witness a battle royale with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) making all-out preparations to unseat Shiv Sena (UBT) 's Arvind Sawant; an MTNL trade union leader who won the last two elections from this prestigious seat.

The BJP had held this seat twice in the past when its leader Jaywantiben Mehta was elected in 1996 and 1999. But since 1999 the party has not been able to get this important seat. However, this time around, the city unit of the party is determined to annexe this seat. 

Speaker of the Maharashtra legislative assembly Rahul Narwekar, who is the MLA from Colaba, and Mangal Prabhat Lodha, minister and MLA from the silk stocking assembly seat of Malabar Hill, are in the running for party in this seat.

Narwekar and Lodha

Narwekar, a lawyer by profession, has always nurtured ambitions of obtaining a role in national politics. He had joined the Shiv Sena in the hope of getting a ticket to contest the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. But since the party denied him the ticket he joined the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and was given the ticket to contest the LS seat from Maval constituency.

His father-in-law Ramraje Nimbalkar was a senior NCP leader and this helped him get the ticket. However, he was defeated thereby giving a setback to his political ambitions. But, this time around he is reported to be keen on contesting from South Mumbai. He is known to be close to deputy chief minister and senior BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis who got him the BJP ticket to contest the last assembly poll from Colaba constituency.

Subsequently, Mr Fadnavis made him the Speaker of the legislative assembly in which capacity he took important decisions giving legal sanction to the split in the Shiv Sena and the NCP. He came in for trenchant criticism from the Shiv Sena (UBT) and NCP (Sharad Pawar) for these decisions. But, he has remained unfazed.

Mangal Prabhat Lodha, who is the second-largest real estate tycoon of India,  too is keen on entering the Lok Sabha. He has had his innings as MLA  and minister in Maharashtra and is setting his sights on Parliament. He has an excellent personal equation with the central leadership of the BJP and to that extent he is not dependent on the state leadership for the ticket. 

Both Narwekar and Lodha are certain of their victory in view of, what they perceive, to be the "Modi wave" in vast tracts of the electoral scene. Indications are that the BJP central leadership may bring in a celebrity candidate for this seat. 

BJP keen on defeating Arvind Sawant

The party is particularly keen on defeating sitting MP of the Shiv Sena (UBT) Arvind Sawant because he is a staunch supporter of Uddhav Thackeray. The defeat of Mr Sawant will be a personal setback for Mr Thackeray given the trade unionist's proximity to him.  Also, the defeat of Mr Sawant will make it easier for the BJP to trounce Mr Aaditya Thackeray in the Worli assembly seat. 

Two assembly segments from this LS seats are held by Shiv Sena (UBT) MLAs, Aaditya Thackeray (Worli) and Ajay Chaudhari (Shivdi). But the Shiv Sena (UBT) has a strong organisational base in this parliamentary seat which will be useful in voter mobilisation on the day of the poll. The Byculla assembly seat had elected a Shiv Sena nominee Yamini Jadhav, but she defected to the Shiv Sena led by CM Shinde during the split in the party.

The Mumbadevi seat is represented by Amin Patel of the Congress, but he was orphaned after his political godfather, Milind Deora, joined the Shiv Sena (Shinde). Patel did not follow his boss into the ruling Shiv Sena (Shinde) since it would have alienated his Muslim vote base. There are indications that he is aspiring to get the Congress ticket for the LS poll from South Mumbai, but this is unlikely given the alliance between the Congress and the Shiv Sena (UBT). 

All in all, the contest in South Mumbai, which is home to several big business houses, the Bombay Stock Exchange, and other important FIs,  promises to be an interesting one.

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