Mumbai: Among the keenly-watched contests in the Maharashtra Assembly elections this time is the one for the 15 seats in Konkan region’s Ratnagiri, Sidhudurg and Raigad districts.
In a surprising turn of events, BJP decided to fight Shiv Sena on these seats spurring questions about whether the latter can maintain its dominance there.
The BJP here is trying to foray into Sena stronghold with the help of Shiv Sena’s arch-rival – Narayan Rane. The move had visibly irked the Sena with chief Uddhav Thackeray openly expressing his displeasure. He even issued a warning to CM Devendra Fadnavis saying that he should have wait for five more years to make this move.
On at least one seat – Kankavli – both the BJP as well as the Shiv Sena have officially pitted candidates against each other. The BJP has termed it a ‘friendly fight’. However, in reality, the fight is anything but friendly.
The BJP’s candidate Nitesh Rane is the son of former Maharashtra CM Narayan Rane. Rane has tacitly supported candidates to oppose the Shiv Sena, on two other seats in Sindhudurg. The heated battle also saw workers of both parties flex their muscles against each other. Unfortunately, the opposition parties have failed to make a mark in this region. So it is doubtful that they will be able to benefit from the split in the BJP-Sena alliance.
Konkan has been a stronghold of the Shiv Sena for decades now. In a tacit understanding between the Shiv Sena and the BJP since several years, it had mutually been decided that while the Sena will take care of Konkan and Mumbai, the BJP will increase its presence in the rest of the states.
These equations, however, changed drastically in the last elections, when both the parties fought the State assembly elections separately. From 2014, BJP’s regional aspirations only grew. It has already taken control of the Mumbai Municipal Corporation that was once a Sena bastion. It has now cast its eyes on Konkan. Experts believe that Rane will be used as a pawn to establish the party’s foothold in the coastal region.