Congress is facing a tough challenge in its bid to retain the Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg Lok Sabha seat in an area where State Industries Minister Narayan Rane holds sway.
Rane’s son Nilesh represents the seat which is situated at the southernmost tip of Maharashtra. Marked by a vast, hilly terrain and a sea coast, this is an area where leaders like Madhu Dandavate and Shiv Sena’s Suresh Prabhu have fought and won Lok Sabha elections for several years.
The constituency known for Chhatrapati Shivaji’s famed sea fort at Malwan and the Tarkarli beach was earlier called Rajapur. Following delimitation in 2008, parts of Ratnagiri district were included in the new Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg constituency.
Col Sudhir Sawant, who won the erstwhile Rajapur Lok Sabha constituency in 1991 on a Congress ticket, said that the group of Shiv Sainiks which came with Narayan Rane in 2005 was the Congress party in the district now.
“The original Congress members are sitting at home,” he said.
Sawant, who quit Congress a few years back, said the party could never establish itself in Konkan region because it fell short of money and muscle power and was also affected by internal bickering.
“The Sharad Pawar faction in Congress used to support Shiv Sena in the 1990s,” he charged.
Even though all villages in the Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg seat have road connectivity and electricity supply, farmers have several grievances.
“The tourism policy is flawed. The focus is only on five star hotels and acquisition of land for it. Given the rural nature of the constituency, focus should have been on village- based and high-end tourism,” he said.
Industries have shied away from investing in the area due to law and order problems, he further charged.
Kudal MLA and former Sena-BJP Chief Minister Narayan Rane is the lone Congress legislator in the Assembly segments in this constituency.
The Sena-turned-Congress leader suffered a blow when party candidates and close associates Ganpat Kadam and Ravindra Phatak, lost from Rajapur and Kankavli, respectively, in the 2009 Assembly polls while NCP’s Uday Samant won from Ratnagiri and Deepak Kesarkar took Sawantwadi.