Elections

It’s advanage BJP in Mumbai North

Rahul Wadke Mumbai | Updated on April 18, 2019 Published on April 18, 2019

Gopal Shetty   -  PAUL NORONHA

The Sun is beating down ,but that does not bother Mumbai North’s sitting MP, Gopal Shetty, as he goes about campaigning, wearing his trademark white shirt and metallic spectacles. He does sweat profusely but still manages a pleasant demeanour.

His opponent is film actor-turned-politician Urmila Matondkar from the Congress.

Development plank

Shetty wants better traffic management for his constituency and judicial reforms at the national level.

He starts his campaigning at Dahisar in the western suburbs at 9.30 am sharp, with a prayer at a local Ganesh temple. His supporters greet him with the slogan vikas, vikas, vikas, Gopal Shetty mhanje vikas (Development, development... Gopal Shetty means development). He is greeted at every nook and corner with garlands and crackers. He has another nine days of hectic campaigning before Mumbai North constituency goes to the polls on April 29.

Cong candidate’s fears

Matondkar, who has been fielded from the constituency by the Grand Old Party, wants police protection as she apprehends BJP workers will turn unruly. On Tuesday, when she led a rally from the Malad market, a few onlookers standing at the shops started chanting ‘‘Modi, Modi...’’ In other places also there were similar chants, which was firmly opposed by Congress workers. Canvassing is going on in a surcharged atmosphere.

But Shetty, who is seeking re-election, is pretty cool about it. “My opponent Matondkar is new to politics. I would not like to criticise her as she is a novice. She is also a woman from the film industry, which has its own glamour. But I’ll always oppose the Congress ideology,” he said in his deep baritone.

The constituency was earlier represented by BJP veteran Ram Naik five times. The Congress has always found it tough to find a leader who could contest from the constituency regularly. In the last 15 years, the Congress has fielded actor Govinda, former Shiv Sena worker-turned-Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam, and this time the mantle has gone to Matondkar.

BJP rallies

Shetty’s rally is a more disciplined affair as it travels through dense residential areas of Dahisar. He travels in an open LCV greeting voters. The area is a mix of slums, high-rises and old settlements called Gaothans.

At all major residential colonies in Dahisar, Shetty is greeted by the locals with garlands. In areas dominated by Shiv Sena, members of the Koli and Agri community, he is even showered with rose petals.

Shetty says he is 100 per cent confident of winning the seat. In his constituency, the fight is one-sided because people have immense faith in the leadership of Prime Minister Modi, he said. “We want India free of Congress party but the fight is not with the people who follow the Congress party. It is the ideology, which is lethal to the country’s welfare,” he claimed.

Electoral issues

Shetty said that the biggest problem faced by Mumbai and also his constituency is traffic congestion. Western suburb, where the constituency is located, is developing rapidly but when the old urban planning was done, parking space was not even marked for motorcycles.

Today many people have four-wheelers and two-wheelers, which are parked on the roads but once the metro rail system gets functional a change will come in people’s commuting habits. New roads are also coming up, which will connect major residential areas in the constituency and with neighbouring Thane district. This will help in easing the traffic congestion to a certain extent, he said.

Advantage BJP

The BJP-Shiv Sena combine has five MLAs and three MLCs in the constituency. Out of 43 municipal corporators, 38 are from the BJP-Shiv Sena combine, which gives the BJP an advantage.

Shetty said that in the new government, he would work for getting the National Judicial Appointment Commission (NJAC) Bill passed again in order to bring transparency in the judiciary. As the Bill was struck down by the Supreme Court, the Modi government put it on the back-burner as it had other things to attend to. But in the new government, NJAC bill will be reintroduced and Shetty says he will work for it in Parliament.

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Published on April 18, 2019
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