Thursday, 2 October 2014

Sena ‘ready’ to wrest Dharavi from Cong, BJP nips at heels

MUMBAI: The assembly constituency of Dharavi, reserved for the scheduled castes, is a traditional Congress stronghold. Before two-term MLA Varsha Gaikwad, it was represented by her father, senior Congress leader Eknath Gaikwad.

Gaikwad, who was minister of women and child development in the Democratic Front government, is confident of a comeback, what with her family and caste advantage. Her main rival, Shiv Sena's Baburao Mane, pooh-poohs the prospect, not without reason. Before the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, in which Sena topped the Dharavi assembly segment, the party edged out Congress in the civic polls, wresting from it five of six seats. In the general elections, Varsha's father lost to Sena's Rahul Shewale in the Mumbai South Central constituency, of which Dharavi is a significant part.

"Even today, Dharavi is like a khede gav (hamlet). The overwhelming majority of people here do not have permanent housing," thunders Mane, whose poll plank is pucca housing for all.

The only factor that can seemingly dent Mane's confidence is the prospect of a split in the saffron vote bank. Also, BJP's Divya Dhole is fighting on a similar plank. "How long will Dharavi be a slum? Locals work in inhuman conditions. Congress has represented them for decades, but has not provided basic infrastructure," she said.

Delays in the Dharavi Redevelopment Project is expected to be a hurdle for Gaikwad, though she insists that the project is on track at last: "The first building is ready and people are positive about it. The delays occurred as the project awaited several clearances."

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