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Congested, contrasting Mumbai metro region heads for polls

IANS
Battle lines are drawn for 10 of 11 Lok Sabha seats that fall in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region and have largely common issues of amenities, infrastructure and transport that remain unresolved for most part.

Mumbai: Battle lines are drawn for 10 of 11 Lok Sabha seats that fall in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region and have largely common issues of amenities, infrastructure and transport that remain unresolved for most part.

The seats are Mumbai North, Mumbai North East, Mumbai North West, Mumbai North Central, Mumbai South Central, Mumbai South, Thane, Palghar, Bhiwandi, Kalyan and Raigad, which are served by the Mumbai local train services. All of them, save Raigad which voted on April 23 in the third phase, go to polls in the fourth and final phase in the state on April 29.

Over 8.5 million people in this region commute by local trains in torturous conditions, besides another two million by BEST buses, autorickshaws, taxis and private vehicles, with many spending an average of 3-4 hours in their daily home-office-home ordeal.

The key issues in Mumbai and its larger Mumbai Metropolitan Region pertain to the lack of open spaces, few recreational areas, quickly vanishing greenery, grandiose projects planned and being implemented - but many have come too late, as a state official says.

With a population of over 17 million, the 600 square km island of Mumbai is city of dreams - and also contrasts, There is big business, big glamour, big money, but also big slums, big cars on narrow roads, small hearths but big hearts, and so on.

It is home to some of the wealthiest people in the country and also the poorest, in sprawling slums or homeless on pavements, with glamour and grit living cheek-by-jowl.

There are big infra-projects with investments of thousands of crores of rupees in the pipeline, including the Metro railway network and the coastal road project, but time is not saved, and there are problems of congestion galore despite the city growing vertically with over 7,000 skyscrapers, some over 250 metres tall, glaring at slums at their doorsteps.

In the past couple of years, the city has seen several bridges come crashing down, a huge stampede, roads caving in and other problems associated with a crumbling infrastructure and growing population, but it will be soon be connected with India's first Bullet Train.

Against this backdrop, the Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena will seek to retain all the 11 seats they currently hold after the 2014 "Modi wave" while the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party plus 56-party alliance will try to wrest them back.

Lets look at the 10 seats which vote on the coming Monday.

Palghar: Starting with the outskirts, Palghar is a reserved (Scheduled Tribe) seat which was with local party, Bahujan Vikas Aghadi (BVA)'s Baliram S. Jadhav in 2009, won but won by BJP's Chintaman Vanaga in 2014 and Rajendra Gavit in the 2018 by-elections. This time, Gavit is contesting on a Shiv Sena ticket.

The challenge is from Jadhav, who is having the support of the 56-party Congress-NCP led Mahagathbandhan in the state. The constituency has a total electorate of 15,78,077, comprising 8,30,432 men and 7,47,645 women.

Bhiwandi: This erstwhile minority-dominated and once communally-sensitive powerloom town elected Congress Suresh K. Taware in 2009, who was replaced in 2014 with prominent Kunbi community leader Vishwanath R. Patil, who was defeated by BJP's Kapil M. Patil in 2014.

This time, Congress' Taware will lock horns again with BJP's Kapil Patil in the constituency with 16,96,598 voters, including 9,45,405 males and 7,51,184 females.

Kalyan: Sitting MP Shrikant Shinde (Shiv Sena), son of Maharashtra Minister Eknath Shinde, and defeated NCP's Anand P. Paranjpe, a former Shiv Sena MP in 2014, in this Sena bastion.

This time, the NCP has fielded veteran social worker and municipal corporator Babaji B. Patil against him in the constituency with total electorate of 19,22,045 including 10,45,495 men and 8,76,551 women.

Thane: Another Sena stronghold, it saw NCP's Sanjeev Naik win 2009, but lose to Shiv Sena's Rajan Vichare in 2014. Now, the NCP has fielded Anand P. Paranjpe - son of former four-time MP Prakash Paranjpe against Vichare in the constituency with 20,73,442 voters comprising 11,42,158 males and 9,31,284 females.

In Mumbai city, all the six constituencies in the country's commercial and glamour capital have direct contests between the BJP-Sena and Congress-NCP alliances. In 2009, Congress bagged five and NCP one, but in 2014, they were swept away in the ‘Modi wave' with the BJP-Sena sharing three each.

Mumbai North: Bollywood actress Urmila Matondkar is challenging the might of BJP's strongman Gopal Shetty in this erstwhile party stronghold. The constituency has earlier been represented by stalwarts like S. A. Dange, V. K. Krishna Menon, Mrinal Gore, Ram Naik, actor Govinda, and former Mumbai Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam.

It is one of the three seats in the state which has a glamour-world candidate - besides Amravati where Navneet Kaur-Rana of the Congress-led mahagathbandhan is contesting and prominent television actor Amol Kolhe from Shirur - in the fray. Despite being the film capital of India, it is only the second constituency in the state which has ever elected a filmstar - Govinda (2004), while Sunil Dutt won from Mumbai North-West.

The constituency has a total electorate of 17,83,870 including 9,72,645 men and 8,11,225 women.

Mumbai North East: The constituency which gave four Union Ministers - Subramaniam Swamy, Pramod Mahajan, Gurudas Kamat and Jaywantiben Mehta - will see a contest between BJP's Manoj Kotak and NCP's former MP Sanjay Dina Patil.

The seat led to a bitter stand-off between the BJP-Sena, with the latter strongly opposed to BJP repeating sitting member Kirit Somaiya and threatening to break the alliance. The BJP backed down and fielded Kotak.

The constituency has total 16,68,347 voters comprising 9,23,011 males and 7,45,342 females.

Mumbai North West: The Shiv Sena has renominated its sitting MP Gajanan C. Kirtikar who wrested the seat from the Congress strongman Gurudas Kamat in 2014. The constituency includes a significant portion of Mumbai's 'Glamour Crescent', the other end of which falls in Mumbai North-Central.

Kirtikar will contest against former Mumbai Congress President Sanjay Nirupam, an ex-Shiv Sainik and three-time MP making his fourth bid for Parliament.

The constituency has an electorate of 17,75,428 including 9,86,908 men and 7,88,520 women.

Mumbai North Central: This is one of the only two constituencies in the state having a direct woman-to-woman fight (the other is Baramati) between two scions of political families - sitting BJP MP Poonam Mahajan and three-time MP Priya Dutt of the Congress. Both are daughters of stalwarts and former Union Ministers - the late Pramod Mahajan and the late Sunil Dutt, respectively, and now in a close fight.

One of the two constituencies in the city (the other being Mumbai North) which has elected a filmstar in the past, it is part of the 'Glamour Crescent' with a total 17,38,894 voters comprising 9,67,474 males and 7,71,420 females.

Mumbai South Central: It houses Asia's biggest slum of Dharavi, besides several affluent pockets where the sitting MP is Sena's Rahul Shewale. He is pitted against former city chief of Congress, ex-MP Eknath Gaikwad.

The constituency with some booking and swank new business districts, mega-housing complexes and the congested slums of Dharavi, has an electorate of 14,47,885 including 7,93,801 men and 6,54,084 women.

Mumbai South: A small but prestigious constituency, this time former MP and Union Minister Milind M. Deora is hoping to wrest it back from Sena's sitting MP Arvind Sawant. Deora recently got a big shot in the arm when top players of India Inc. came out in open support for him, besides the business and trading communities.

This constituency - which has given four Union Ministers in George Fernandes, Deora and his father Murli Deora, Jaywantiben Mehta - comprises large tracts of VVIP areas and affluent pockets as well as middle and lower-middle class localities with a total of 14,85,846 voters comprising 8,28,964 males and 6,56,882 females.