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Constituency Watch: A tough call for Darekar to counter Dr Shinde’s ‘Paanch lakh paar’ target in Kalyan

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Mumbai, May 15 (IANS) For Maharashtra Chief Minister and Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde and his son Dr Shrikant Shinde the contest from Kalyan constituency against the Shiv Sena (UBT) candidate Vaishali Darekar is a battle of prestige.Both father and son are striving to retain their supremacy and tighten their grip over the constituency which has been one of the bastions of the RSS and the BJP.Dr Shinde, who had won the seat in the 2014 and 2019 elections, now wants to score a hat-trick with an ambitious margin of over five lakh votes.He is using the tag line “Paanch lakh paar” on the lines of the BJP’s “Ab ki baar 400 paar” slogan.The Chief Minister is personally involved in the implementation of a poll strategy by taking allies BJP, NCP, RPI, MNS and others together to ensure Dr Shinde wins with a higher margin.He has asked party cadres not to be complacent but step up their voter outreach.Incidentally, Darekar, who had contested the Lok Sabha elections on the MNS’ ticket in the 2009 elections, is being portrayed as a new face and a weak candidate fielded by Shiv Sena (UBT).Darekar has to struggle to reach out to the voters on the strength of the party’s cadres and leaders, as a large chunk had migrated to the Shinde faction after the vertical split in June 2022.She is also banking on the poll network of NCP(SP), Congress and other like-minded parties but is finding it tough to match the manpower and resources at the disposal of the Shinde faction.However, former CM Uddhav Thackeray has come out in her support and has addressed poll rallies, as has his son and former minister Aaditya Thackeray and leaders from the MVA.Darekar also hopes to cash in on the rift between the Shinde faction and its allies. It is an effort by Darekar and Shiv Sena (UBT) in particular to increase the party’s presence ahead of the forthcoming Assembly elections slated for September-October this year.CM Shinde and his team have been engaged in holding corner meetings, roadshows and house-to-house contact.Dr Shinde expects Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rally on Wednesday to be a booster dose to achieve the target of winning with a margin of more than five lakh votes.During the 2019 elections, he had polled 5,59,723 against NCP candidate Babaji Patil who had got 2,15,380 votes.In the 2014 elections, Dr Shinde had got 4,40,892 votes against NCP nominee Aanand Paranjape who had polled 1,90,143 votes.Incidentally, Paranjape, a former political rival-turned-ally, is now actively campaigning for Dr Shinde in the current elections.The Kalyan seat was hogging the headlines till Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis unilaterally announced the candidature of Dr Shinde even before the BJP and the Shinde faction arrived at a seat sharing arrangement.It was Fadnavis’ calculated move to send a strong message to disgruntled elements from within the BJP to come on board keeping aside their differences with Dr Shinde.BJP Legislator Ganpat Gaikwad shooting at Shinde faction leader Mahesh Gaikwad had led to major tension between Shiv Sena and the BJP.Gaikwad’s arrest had led to protests by his supporters who declared that they would not campaign for Dr Shinde.However, they have been pacified by the CM and Fadnavis and their involvement now in campaigning has been a major relief for Dr Shinde.Moreover, the BJP’s move to bring MNS into the alliance helped the lone Legislator Pramod alias Raju Patil from Kalyan Rural to bury the hatchet with Dr Shinde and actively join the campaigning.With the BJP, MNS and NCP strongly on his side, Dr Shinde sees himself in a comfortable zone against Darekar who is still assessing how much support she can garner from the traditional Shiv Sainiks.There are 28 candidates in the fray. The number of voters has increased to 20,82,221 in 2024 against 19,65,676 in 2019 and 19,22,034 in 2014.Of the 20,82,221 voters, Marathi voters top the list with 11,58,956 followed by 4,15,624 North Indians, 1,75,566 Muslims, 1,23,335 Gujaratis, 68,300 South Indians, 85,920 Punjabis and Sindhis.Of the six Assembly segments, MNS represents Kalyan Rural, Ambarnath is with Shiv Sena, Ulhasnagar, Kalyan East and Dombivli with BJP and Kalwa-Mumbra with NCP (SP).Dr Shinde is approaching the voters projecting a number of projects carried out in a decade with the financial assistance of the Centre and the state government.In the case of Darekar, there is hardly anything to showcase as she was not an elected member.Dr Shinde is taking up the benefits of the construction of the fifth and sixth track between Kalyan and Lokmanya Tilak Terminus and how it will be further extended from Kurla to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus.However, delays in the completion of various bridges and flyovers, increasing traffic jams, delays in the completion of Smart City project, disposal of solid waste, increasing unauthorised structures and strengthening of infrastructure are some of the other issues that Dr Shinde and Darekar promise to push to boost development in the constituency.(Sanjay Jog can be contacted at [email protected])–IANSsj/rad

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