Mumbai North no cakewalk for BJP with Urmila's entry

Mumbai North no cakewalk for BJP with Urmila
Highlights

The Mumbai North Lok Sabha seat was one where the Congress was reportedly unable to zero in on a candidate to take on sitting MP Gopal Shetty, but the entry of actor Urmila Matondkar has now brought in more than a semblance of a contest.

Mumbai: The Mumbai North Lok Sabha seat was one where the Congress was reportedly unable to zero in on a candidate to take on sitting MP Gopal Shetty, but the entry of actor Urmila Matondkar has now brought in more than a semblance of a contest.

It is among the BJP's strongest seats in the state, and Shetty, a former corporator and multiple-time MLA, had defeated former Mumbai Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam in the 2014 general election by 4.46 lakh votes, among the widest margins in the country.

According to observers, the morale of Congress workers was down after Nirupam reportedly showed unwillingness to contest from the constituency this time.

They add that Matondkar, who has surprised most with her articulateness while speaking on political issues, has now ensured that the BJP has a fight on hand and the contest is no longer a cakewalk.

While Mumbai North was among the largest Lok Sabha constituencies in the country, behind Outer Delhi and Thane, the delimitation exercise in 2008 shrunk it.

While areas beyond Dahisar have been included in the Palghar seat, newer assembly segments like Magathane, Charkop, Kandivali (east) and Malad (west) have been carved out of the growing suburbs of Malad and Kandivali and included in the Mumbai North seat.

A rising population, housing, healthcare and transportation remain key issues, as is the lack of basic facilities in several Adivasi settlements in the Sanjay Gandhi National Park.

Of the six assembly segments that make the seat, four — Dahisar, Borivali, Kandivali (east) and Charkop — are held by the BJP. Magathane is with saffron ally Shiv Sena, while Malad (west) is represented by Congress's Aslam Sheikh.

There are over 18 lakh voters and poll percentage in the 2014 Lok Sabha election was 53.07 per cent. Speaking about her easy connect with the people, Matondkar said it came from the empathy and respect for those before whom she stands asking for votes.

"I am one of them and am asking them to make me their representative. If given a chance and if I can fullfil their expectations, which I am confident I will, I can be called a leader," she told PTI.

Despite observers saying that the Maharashtrian vote will be decisive, Matondkar claimed she is not playing the "Marathi card".

Kalu Bundhela, a Congress leader from Mumbai North said the party is banking on the "excess votes" that went to the BJP in 2014 due to the Narendra Modi wave.

"There is a traditional Congress base of 2.5 lakh votes. We should be able to increase the tally on Urmila's goodwill and the support of the MNS which is backing her candidature.

Similarly, 1.15 lakh Muslims and Christians are likely to support her," Bundhela said. "There are 6.5 lakh Maharashtrians and 5.5 lakh Gujarati-speaking people. If we get 7-8 per cent of their votes, it is a safe bet," he claimed.

Shetty's supporters, meanwhile, point out to his grassroots connect, and even rivals acknowledge his work in conserving open spaces and gardens in the Borivali area.

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