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BJP supremacy tested in Bhiwandi

Kapil Patil, who hopes to score a hat-trick, faces a tough challenge from Suresh Mhatre, who is a seasoned politician and Nilesh Sambre who runs a well-known Jijau Sanghatana, reports Sanjay Jog

BJP nominee and Union Minister Kapil Patil, NCP(SP) candidate Suresh Mhatre and an Independent, Nilesh Sambre are locked in a triangular contest in Bhiwandi constituency which is famous for its powerloom industry and logistic activities in Thane District.

Patil, who hopes to score a hat-trick, faces a tough challenge from Mhatre, who is a seasoned politician and Sambre who runs a well-known Jijau Sanghatana.

While Patil and Mhatre come from the Aagri community, Sambre hails from the Kunbi community.

Incidentally, Aagris and Kunbis along with the sizable Muslim community will be the deciding factor in this constituency.

In addition, the three candidates cannot neglect the tribal community which is struggling to stay afloat due to the rising threat of encroachment on their lands.

Patil hopes to weather anti-incumbency especially in the wake of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rally at Kalyan on Wednesday and also because of praises showered upon him by his boss.

Even though Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis intervened to bring together the warring Patil and party Legislator from Murbad, Kisan Kathore, the BJP is struggling to put up a show of unity which is crucial to send an “all is well’’ signal to the voters.

However, Patil hopes to ride on PM Modi’s guarantee and the support from cadres of the BJP, NCP, Shiv Sena, RPI and MNS.

Patil is confident of getting overwhelming support from the Muslim community due to his outreach and a number of works carried out for their development during his two terms.

On the other hand, Mhatre with his network of logistics and storehouses is optimistic about encashing on the anti-incumbency factor against Patil due to the simmering discontent among the youth due to burgeoning unemployment, price rise and also among the Aagri and farming communities due to constraints on carrying out their traditional activities due to rapid urbanisation.

Mhatre heaved a sigh of relief after the former Congress MP Suresh Mhatre opted out of the fray.

Suresh Mhatre had staked his claim but Congress ultimately withdrew from the contest, adhering to the alliance dharma.

Further, Mhatre expects that there won’t be a division of Muslim votes despite the MIM’s candidate in the fray. He hopes that Muslims will largely support him because of the Samajwadi Party’s association and also due to their strong opposition to the BJP fearing change in the Constitution if it comes to power for the third time.

On his part, Sambre expects victory due to the division of votes and on the dint of his social work.

Apart from that, the Prakash Ambedkar-led Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi’s support is another positive for Sambre.

There are 27 candidates in the fray with a total number of 20,87,244 voters. As many as 37 per cent belong to the Kunbi community, 21 per cent are Muslim, 15 per cent Aagri and 27 per cent Dalits and others.

Of the six Assembly segments, the BJP represents Bhiwandi West and Murbad while Bhiwandi Rural and Kalyan West are held by Shiv Sena, Bhiwandi East by Samajwadi Party and Shahapur by NCP.

The power distribution done by a franchise appointed by the state-run Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company and the issues with regard to supply has been a major issue raised by voters.

They are making a strong pitch for cheaper power tariffs. The powerloom industry, once a flourishing sector, faces a survival threat after demonetisation and implementation of the GST regime amid volatile economic conditions. The industry expects time-bound solutions in the form of tax benefits.

The voters are insisting that connecting Bhiwandi with Thane and Kalyan through the Metro rail corridor will partially ease the traffic congestions in the area.

Moreover, the increasing traffic jams in Bhiwandi and Kalyan, rising water scarcity and inefficient health system are some of the other important issues faced by the citizens from the constituency.

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