Though the Sena-BJP alliance in Maharashtra declared the names of Poonam Mahajan and Gopal Shetty as the candidates for the Mumbai North-Central and Mumbai North Lok Sabha constituencies respectively, an ongoing tussle around huge political differences between both the parties in the government have kept the candidature for the Mumbai North East Lok Sabha constituency on hold for quite a long time. The constituency is currently represented by Kirit Somaiya and finally, on Wednesday, the BJP declared Mulund corporator Manoj Kotak as the candidate replacing Somaiya.
Before forming an alliance in Maharashtra, Shiv Sena strongly opposed the candidature of Kirit Somaiya for the Lok Sabha elections. Sena leaders and workers had threatened BJP that it will not only oppose Somaiya’s candidature but will also work towards defeating him. While sensing an opportunity and taking the advantage of the situation, NDA ally, Republican Party of India (RPI) chief and Union Minister for Social Welfare Ramdas Athawale articulated his willingness to contest the Lok Sabha elections from the same constituency but his demand got rejected.
While speaking to Afternoon Voice, before the name of Kotak was announced, Ramdas Athawale said, “If BJP has dropped Kirit Somaiya, they should consider my name for the same.” The RPI chief earlier wished to contest the LS polls demanding two seats. He lobbied hard to get one seat in Mumbai and another elsewhere in the state. However, both the parties have denied paying heed to his demand. Moreover, in his earlier speeches, he time and again made fun of Shiv Sena and that is reportedly the reason that BJP could not accept his appeal.
Shiv Sena MLA Sunil Raut expressed, “Neither Sena is against BJP now our party is opposing the other. Sena has an alliance with BJP for the last 25 years and it will continue in the coming 50 years. The problem is only with Kirit Somaiya as the candidate for the LS polls and I oppose his nomination. I can support any other candidate besides him. RPI is having an alliance with BJP and if a seat is offered to Athawale, we will consider it.”
In Maharashtra, Dalits constitute 10.8 per cent votes. In Mumbai, the Dalit population is 16 per cent and it is believed that this vote bank is quite significant as an added advantage in any elections. While both the Shiv Sena and BJP showed their reluctance to give any seat to Athawale, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis assured Rajya Sabha term to the Union Minister. Meanwhile, the RPI chief announced that his party would stick to the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
RPI National Secretary Avinash Mahatekar and Mumbai RPI President Gautam Sonawane told Afternoon Voice, “Ramdas Athawale should get the Mumbai North-East LS seat in order to stop the ongoing tussle. However, there has been no response regarding this demand from either Shiv Sena or BJP. Ramdas Athawale was only kept waiting in speculations.” Moreover, he has warned BJP that if he is ignored, he can influence his voters not to vote for Sena-BJP.
When asked about Athawale’s demand on contesting from the Mumbai North East LS constituency, Madhavi Naik, the chief of Maharashtra BJP’s women’s unit stated, “It is premature to comment on this matter. I trust BJP leadership and they will take the right decision in the larger interest of the party.”
Polling in Mumbai North East parliamentary seat will be held on April 29 in the fourth phase of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections and the last date of filing nomination is April 9. The counting of votes will take place on May 23.