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LS polls: Will it be a cakewalk for CM Shinde's son in Kalyan this time?

May 19, 2024 12:15 IST

Shrikant Shinde had comfortably won the Kalyan Lok Sabha seat in Maharashtra in the last two elections, but the stakes are higher this time as his father, Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, now heads a truncated faction of the Shiv Sena following a bitter split in the party.

IMAGE: Maharashtra CM Eknath Shinde (left) and deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis during a rally to show support for Shiv Sena leader and sitting MP from Kalyan seat, Shrikant Shinde (middle) before filing nomination from the Lok Sabha constituency, May 2, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo

The constituency, part of the Thane district and close to Mumbai, contains densely populated urban areas and industrial belts. It will go to polls on May 20.


Shrikant Shinde entered politics in 2014, contesting as a candidate of the then undivided Shiv Sena and won with a margin of 2,50,749 votes. He increased the margin to 3,44,343 in the 2019 general elections.

But the political scenario has changed drastically since then, as his father rebelled against party chief Uddhav Thackeray and walked away to join hands with the Bharatiya Janata Party to become chief minister in June 2022.

Uncertainty surrounded Shrikant Shinde's candidature this time as the BJP sensed the possibility of contesting more seats in Maharashtra, and its leader and state minister Ravindra Chavan, MLA from Dombivli, was keen to fight from Kalyan.

Of the six assembly segments in Kalyan, three including Dombivli are with the BJP and one each with the Shinde-led Shiv Sena, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, and Nationalist Congress Party-Sharadchandra Pawar.

As it has three MLAs in the region, the BJP pushed its claim for the Kalyan Lok Sabha seat, but Eknath Shinde remained firm that his party will not cede it.

The rival Shiv Sena-Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray led by Uddhav Thackeray has fielded former corporator Vaishali Darekar-Rane against Shrikant Shinde.

Rane had secured more than one lakh votes in this seat in 2009 as a Maharashtra Navnirman Sena candidate, though she lost.

Shrikant Kulkarni, a computer salesperson and resident of Dombivli, said the rapid population growth in Kalyan and Dombivli Municipal Corporation limits in the last two decades has put a lot of pressure on water supply and health services.

"Unfortunately, we have not received much of an infrastructure upgrade. There is no good government hospital which we realised during the COVID-19 pandemic. The railway stations used by lakhs of people daily are not big enough, and are never clean. Roads are narrow and vendors occupy footpaths," he said.

Suman Walecha, a resident of Kalyan city, claimed developmental works have picked up pace, and MP Shinde cannot be blamed for all the woes.

"A strong government at the top is necessary to navigate people in the right direction. Things will eventually get better," she said.

In February, BJP MLA from Kalyan East, Ganpat Gaikwad, opened fire in a police station on a local leader of the Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena, bringing to the fore the tensions between the two alliance partners in the region.

The rivalry between the local leaders of the two parties could be a cause of concern for Shinde.

The constituency's demography is diverse. Dombivli has a sizable number of Maharashtrians and South Indians. Ulhasnagar is a predominantly Sindhi area, while Kalyan city and Kalyan rural assembly seats have Gujarati and Marathi-speaking populations. Ambernath has a mix of Sindhis, Gujaratis and Maharashtrians. Mumbra-Kalwa assembly seat, represented by the NCP-SP, has a large number of Muslims.

Vaishali Darekar-Rane claimed people are upset with the present regime.

"First and foremost, they are worried about the rising cost of living and behaviour of the current government at the Centre. Rampant abuse of power, induction of tainted people into their party, and bending law as per their wish are not acceptable to the people," she said.

"Another factor is the poor infrastructure and lack of urban planning in the constituency. Despite high population growth, there is no assured drinking water supply to major urban areas. Every urban area receives drinking water only for a few hours," she told PTI.

Asked about these issues, Shrikant Shinde said, "No doubt that population growth, water availability and good communication network are some of the important issues people want me to address. I have pushed the administration hard to complete several road projects, change pipelines and construct new bridges. Some work proposals are at an advanced level in various departments."

Shinde also claimed the people have backed his father's decision to form a government with the support of the BJP in Maharashtra.

Nikhil Deshmukh in Mumbai
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