INDIA 2024 India News Politics

ED ‘eye’ on Sena Vs Sena battle in Mumbai North West

Barely hours after the SS(UBT) named Amol Kirtikar as MVA nominee, the ED popped a notice on him for his alleged role in BMC’s ‘khichdi scam’, a report by Quaid Najmi…reports Asian Lite News

The coveted Mumbai North West (MNW) Lok Sabha constituency is a fight between the two rival Senas – Chief Minister Eknath Shinde’s Shiv Sena and ex-CM Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena (UBT) – and the dreaded Enforcement Directorate (ED) lurking around the candidates of both parties.

Barely hours after the SS(UBT) named Amol Kirtikar as Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) nominee for the seat, the ED popped a notice on him for his alleged role in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC)’s ‘khichdi scam’.

In fact, ruling Shiv Sena’s sitting MP Gajanan Kirtikar – father of Amol G. Kirtikar – even publicly expressed his strong displeasure on the purported ‘misuse’ of the ED, embarrassing the Mahayuti allies.

As Amol Kirtikar complied with the ED notice and went for a probe, a prominent SS(UBT) leader Ravindra D Waikar suddenly defected to the Shiv Sena – and was rewarded with a LS ticket.

Just a few days ago, Waikar let the cat out of the bag when quizzed on his abrupt party-hopping, as he morosely replied, “I had only two avenues – go to jail, or change sides… Besides, there was no support from my party…”

Leaving the Mahayuti stunned, Waikar said that he and his wife were falsely implicated in the alleged luxury hotel scam in Jogeshwari, in which he is accused of flouting BMC agreements as the plot was reserved for a public park.

Accordingly, he decided to join the Shiv Sena and was named a Mahayuti candidate for MNW LS seat, against Amol G. Kirtikar the son of his close associate Gajanan Kirtikar.

The INDIA-MVA leaders beat the Mahayuti-BJP-NDA allies with Waikar’s statement, saying this confirms the Opposition parties’ allegations on how the ED, CBI, IT, and other central investigation agencies are being used to target political opponents.

The MNW seat created upheaval even elsewhere with former Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam dumping the party to join Shiv Sena after he was denied a ticket, even as Shinde briefly toyed with the idea of fielding Bollywood actor Govinda.

For the present poll scenario, Shinde managed to mollify Nirupam and deployed Govinda – an ex-Congress MP – to attract crowds to the party’s rallies.

The MNW seat comprises six Assembly segments, of which three are held by the BJP, one by Shiv Sena and two by Shiv Sena (UBT).

They are: BJP’s Goregaon (MLA Vidya Thakur), Versova (MLA Bharati Lavekar) and Andheri West (MLA Ameet Satam); Shiv Sena’s (MLA Ravindra D. Waikar, now the LS candidate); and SS(UBT)’s Dindoshi (MLA Sunil Prabhu) and Andheri East (MLA Rutuja Latke).

Since it came into existence in 1967, the MNW has thrown up several stalwarts including four Union ministers – HR Gokhale, Ram Jethmalani, Sunil Dutt and Gurudas Kamat (all deceased) – at various points in different governments at the Centre.

With his secular image, Dutt nurtured MNW for five terms to make it a Congress bastion, and after his passing in 2005, his daughter Priya Dutt was elected for one term in a bypoll.

On just three occasions, MNW constituency repeated the same party/candidate – Janata Party’s Jethmalani (1977 and 1980), (undivided) Shiv Sena’s Madhukar Sarpotdar (1996 and 1998), Shiv Sena’s Gajanan Kirtikar (2014 and 2019), making it an unpredictable seat for most parties.

The cosmopolitan population in the region comprises Marathis, Gujaratis, North Indians, Rajasthanis, Dalits, Muslims, Christians, Parsis, besides the working classes from outside Maharashtra.

There is a generous dollop of glamour, corporate honchos, film and television stars sprinkled in Versova, Andheri, Goregaon, Dindoshi; the world-famous Film City nestles here, plus there is a good railway, road, metro-rail infrastructure and connectivity.

Congress slams BJP for ‘washing machine’ tactic

The Congress has accused the BJP of using its “washing machine” tactic to absorb leaders facing anti-corruption probes in Maharashtra. Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh highlighted the cases of Ravindra Waikar, Yamini Jadhav, and Narayan Rane, who joined the ruling alliance despite facing investigations. Ramesh posed several questions to Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead of his rallies in the state.

Ramesh criticized the BJP for diluting the rights of Adivasis in Maharashtra, referencing the Forest Rights Act of 2006, which the Congress introduced to grant legal rights to tribal communities. He claimed that the Forest Conservation Amendment Act introduced by PM Modi last year has undermined these rights, stripping local communities of their consent and statutory requirements for forest clearance. According to Ramesh, this move aims to benefit corporate interests.

He presented data showing the Mahayuti government’s failure to fully implement the Forest Rights Act, depriving millions of Adivasis of their benefits. Only 52% of the individual claims filed have been granted, and land titles distributed cover merely 23.5% of the eligible area for community rights. Ramesh questioned why the BJP and its allies have neglected Adivasis’ forest rights in Maharashtra.

Ramesh also highlighted the BJP’s alleged admission of using its “washing machine” to integrate leaders facing corruption allegations. Kirit Somaiya, a former BJP MP, had accused Waikar, Jadhav, and Rane of corruption. These leaders subsequently joined the Mahayuti alliance, and Somaiya commented on their switch by saying, “Everyone deserves a chance. If the shirt gets stained, then you wash it and wear it again.” Ramesh noted that Waikar himself mentioned having two options with Thackeray’s Shiv Sena: switch parties or face jail.

Ramesh further criticized the BJP for the increase in construction worker deaths in Maharashtra since 2021, citing a three-fold rise. He accused the BJP of neglecting safety regulations established by the Congress in 2007 under the Maharashtra Building and Other Construction Workers’ Rules. He pointed to the August 2023 incident where 13 laborers died on the Samruddhi Expressway in Thane, with families receiving delayed compensation after extensive paperwork.

The Congress leader also emphasized the party’s commitment to protecting unorganized workers’ rights, promising a national minimum wage of Rs 400 per day in their Nyay Patra. Ramesh urged the prime minister to address these critical issues, challenging him to outline his vision for the safety and security of construction workers.

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