Monday 17 December 2018

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Politics | Lok Sabha '99

Suresh Prabhu on a sticky wicket against Dandvate

 

Nobody talks about making Atal Bihari Vajpayee the prime minister of India.They do not even bother to link the Kargil victory to the elections. TheBharatiya Janata Party does not even exist, for all practical purposes.

In Rajapur, southernmost constituency of the Konkan region, the publicfigures are Bal Thackeray and Sharad Pawar. The fight is also between twobigwigs - the veteran socialist Madhu Dandvate and the young union ministerSuresh Prabhu, for the Lok Sabha polls, scheduled on 11 September.

Dandvate, who was the indisputable MP till 1989, is seen pushing very hardthis time after facing miserable defeat twice in '91 and '96. He did noteven contest last time as Prabhu was elected consecutively for the secondtime.

Though all the hard-core socialist cadres have remained intact with JanataDal (Secular), the veteran socialist leader is seen more dependent uponPawar to make inroads. But rebellion within the ruling Sena in threeAssembly segments is the real expectancy he is relying upon.

With JD (S) and the undivided Republican Party of India here supporting theNCP, Sawantwadi and Kudal-Vengurla segments would obviously go to NCP'sPravin Bhosle and JD's Pushpsen Sawant respectively. Similarly,Malwan-Kankavli's Assembly segment would also be retained by Sena's chiefminister Narayan Rane.

More than totally marginalised Congress (I) - also known as ItalianCongress in this region, what matters as the third force in the remainingthree Assembly segments - Devgad in Sindhudurg district as alsoSangameshwar and Rajapur in Ratnagiri districts - are the Sena rebels,contesting there by defying their super-boss Balasaheb.

"All kind of combinations would help me to win", says Dandvate, whilerefusing to talk about rebels. But Jayanand Mathkar, his election agent,loves to explain in detail how it would help for his candidate to stage acomeback in the Parliament.

Rajapur's former Sena MLA Appa Salvi, Ratnagiri's ZP president Subhash Banein Sangameshwar and Narayan Uparkar in Devgad, are the popular figures intheir respective areas, but have been denied tickets by the Sena. All ofthem - as the independent Assembly candidates - are campaigning forDandvate, claims Mathkar.

"Our votes are intact. The rebels would make a marginal impact", saysPrabhu, who also claims over 60 per cent votes in his favour this time. Forhim, it is a simple arithmetic of the divided Congress and the intact Senawhich would only increase his margin.

While the banker-turned-politician is projecting himself as the unionminister once again, JD circles claim that the rebellion in Sangameshwarand Rajapur is instigated by Sena leaders like Madhukar Sarpotdar andformer chief minister Manohar Joshi, who want to stake their claim for theministerial positions this time in Delhi.

Similarly, a theory has been making rounds that Uparkar has been fielded asa rebel in Devgad by chief minister Rane himself to defeat the three-timeBJP MLA Appasaheb Gogte, so that BJP's number in the Assembly diminishesand Rane remains the CM.

"You can patent this fantastic theory", comments Prabhu, while repeatedlydenying it. He says no person would vote for a person, whether Dandvate inLok Sabha or the rebels in the Assembly polls, who have no chance of comingto power.

On the other hand, Adv Varsha Pulav, who was shifted to Sawantwadi fromMalwan as Sena's candidate by Rane and got defeated to the Congress in1995, is camping in Sawantwadi on behalf of the NCP. "Rane tried to finishme politically. Now, I will finish him in Konkan", she says.

While Congress (I)'s Major Sudhir Sawant, the former MP, is lagging farbehind in the race, a literal verbal war has begun here between Dandvateand Prabhu who are trying to claim credit for several developmental works,which are being done in the last few years.

Konkan railway is still the issue here with Dandvate-Pawar's ProgressiveDemocratic Front appealing to the people to pay gratitude towards bringingKonkan railway to the region by voting for Dandvate. Even Sena'sdevelopmental schemes were actually approved by Dandvate, when he was theplanning commission chairperson, they claim.

"I have personally brought 400 different developmental schemes to theregion, besides several works done by our state government", claims Prabhu.It even includes relaxation to the coastal zone regulation, allowingfisherfolk to repair and renovate their houses within 500 metres, as theunion environment minister.

As elections are held here just on the eve of Ganesh Chaturthi, the biggestfestival of Konkan region, it would also depend upon what the Mumbai-basedrespected 'chakarmanis' would tell their relatives here when they comedown. The response for Sena in Mumbai this time is a mixed one, unlike in'96 and '98.

Almost all the parties also admit that the turnout may diminish this timeas many voters would be totally engrossed into the festival. With thevoting percentage expected to go down, it has to be seen whom it wouldactually benefit.






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