Why Rajapur Muslims will vote for Sena

Rahul Wadke Rajapur (Maharashtra) | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on October 10, 2014

Site of contention The fishing village of Sakhri Nate (file photo).

Virulent protests against NPCIL plant have made the party a local favourite

The Assembly elections in Maharashtra are a mere five days away and the Shiv Sena is on a sticky wicket in a number of seats, thanks to a multi-cornered fight.

But in Rajapur constituency in South Konkan, the party has very bright chances of retaining it, due to its sustained opposition to the Jaitapur nuclear power project.

Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) is setting up a 10,000 MW nuclear power plant based on the European Pressurised Reactor technology of France-based Areva at Madban village near Rajapur.

Over the past five years, NPCIL has acquired 938 hectares of land for setting the plant and a residential colony for it staff at Madban and four neighbouring villages. The company has been facing sustained agitation by local residents, anti-nuclear activists and Shiv Sena members.

About 7 km from the plant site are the twin villages of Nate and Sakhri Nate, where the majority of the residents are Konkani Muslims fully dependent on the fishing industry. These villages have been at the forefront of agitations against NPCIL. Tabrez Sayekar, a resident of Sakhri Nate, was killed in April 2011 in a police firing.

Nate has a population of about 5,000 and Sakhri Nate, 8,000. Every day about 25 tonnes of fish, valued at about ₹80 lakh, are auctioned at the Musa Kazi fishing port, which is located at the edge of Nate. Every year, about ₹200-250 crore is collected at the auctions.

Madban resident Shailesh Vagdhare told BusinessLine that in spite of the Shiv Sena’s stand on Hindutva, it has been getting solid support from the local Konkani Muslim community. The community fears that hot water discharges and accidental release of radiation from the plant into the sea could harm fishing in the area. Due to its sustained support to the agitation, the Sena today controls gram panchayats in both villages, he added.

Vagdhare further said the community usually votes collectively for a single candidate and this time also the Shiv Sena holds an edge.

“The Muslim fisherman community in these two villages have no land holding other than their houses. They are fully dependent on the sea for their livelihood. If discharges from the plant affect the shoals then there would be a drastic impact on the livelihood,” said Sunil Rane, Divisional Head of Shiv Sena in Ratnagiri.

He said that earlier the villages used to be a Congress bastion due to a large number of Muslim voters. But, the locals are now more appreciative of the Sena.

Published on October 10, 2014
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