Konkan could decide Maharashtra polls. But, for BJP and Sena, it means much more

BJP is desperate for inroads in coastal Maharashtra, largely Sena's bastion


Sindhudurg district in the Konkan region, along the western coast of Maharashtra, has three assembly constituencies―Kankavli, Kudal and Sawantwadi. In the upcoming Maharashtra assembly polls, in accordance with the seat-sharing programme, the BJP was supposed to contest the Kankavli seat while Kudal and Sawantwadi belonged to Shiv Sena. However, an unexpected bombshell dropped. The BJP announced that Nitesh Rane, son of Thackerays' political bete noire Narayan Rane, will contest from Kankavli.

While this was a largely distasteful prospect for many BJP leaders, it was especially unappealing for Sena. Ever since Nitesh's father Narayan Rane quit Sena in 2005, a feud had taken root.

The decision did not sit well with the Sena. They hit back, announcing a ticket to Satish Sawant, once a close aide of Narayan Rane, to contest against Nitesh from Kankavli. The dispute soon snowballed, with an irked BJP announcing their intention to support two independents from the Sena seats of Kudal and Sawantwadi.


No matter what the results of the assembly elections (the Congress and NCP have been hit with desertions and their prospects look unappealing), the results in the Konkan belt, with its sizeable haul of 75 assembly seats and accounting for over one-fourth of the total 288 constituencies, will be a keenly watched battleground. The region, with districts like Palghar, Thane, Raigad, Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg, is largely a Sena bastion.

With districts like Mumbai in the fold, it is also quite a wealthy proposition. The BJP is desperate to make inroads into the region, and the Sena is determined to hang on. This region, political observers feel, will be a testing ground for internecine conflict within the saffron fold. And, to a larger extent, BJP’s stratagem to ‘dominate and jettison’ regional coteries in different states.   

There is also the region’s unmistakeable electoral significance. In the 2014 assembly elections, BJP and Shiv Sena swept 24 and 29 seats each, and the coalition government came to power. In 2009, the Congress—the single largest party—won around 22 seats in the region, with BJP and Shiv Sena at 7 and 12 each. In 2004, the NCP and INC won 13 and 19 assembly constituencies each, going on to form a coalition government. Mumbai alone accounts for 36 seats.


Electorally, the Sena and BJP are engaged in friendly fights or facing rebel menace in at least six constituencies—Kudal, Kankavli, Sawantwadi, Kalyan West, Kalyan East and Boisar. In Kankavli, BJP’s Nitesh Rane faces Narayan Rane’s former aide Satish Sawant, supported by the Sena. In reprisal, the BJP will support independents against Sena in Kudal and Sawantwadi. In Kalyan West, BJP MLA Narendra Pawar, who lost out on his constituency after it went to the Sena in the seat-sharing agreement, will contest as a rebel amid reported discontent in the BJP base. In Kalyan East, the situation is reversed, with Sena rebel Dhananjay Bhodare competing against BJP’s Ganpat Gaikwad. Over 30 Sena corporators reportedly resigned to show support to Bhodare.   

Key ground issues like the Nanar refinery, metro shed at Mumbai's Aarey Colony—both of which the Sena had vehemently opposed—and PMC Bank scam had come as obstacles between the saffron allies. The proposed refinery project at Nanar in Ratnagiri was a flashpoint between the Shiv Sena and the BJP from the past. The Sena has said the multi-billion refinery will damage the fragile ecology of Konkan. But, while on a tour of the region during his 'Maha Janadesh Yatra' a few weeks ago, Fadnavis had hinted he would talk to local residents for starting the project in Nanar. However, the Shiv Sena has claimed locals don't want the project and it is a "closed" chapter. Similar is the case with the construction of a  metro shed at Aarey Colony, a green belt in suburban Goregaon, where over 2,000 trees have been hacked and which led to massive public protests. The Sena termed the move to axe the trees "shameful and disgusting".

An urbanised region, Konkan is expected to see a straight fight between the Sena-BJP and the Congress-NCP alliances, with some smaller outfits also trying to make their presence felt. The Congress is contesting 44 of the 75 seats, including 29 in Mumbai. Its alliance partner NCP has fielded candidates on 18 seats, including five in Mumbai. Among the saffron allies, the Shiv Sena has fielded 44 candidates in the region, 19 of them in Mumbai. The BJP, which is otherwise the senior partner in the ruling front, is contesting a lesser number of seats in the region than the Uddhav Thackeray-led party. The BJP is contesting 29 seats in Konkan, 17 of them in Mumbai.

Some key constituencies to watch out for in the region:

The Yuva Sena chief is a voracious reader, has the ability to hold his own in debates about the metropolis and the state, and has a connect with the grassroot Sainiks | PTI Aaditya Thackeray

Worli: A very safe constituency for the Shiv Sena, Aaditya Thackeray will contest from the seat, making him the first member of the family to fight polls. Ever since the Shiv Sena was founded by late Bal Thackeray in 1966, no member of the family had contested any election or held any constitutional post.

shrivardha Shrivardhan

Shrivardhan: In this seat, NCP’s Aditi Tatkare, daughter of Raigad MP Sunil Tatkare, will make her debut against former MLA Vinod Ghosalkar. Aditi had termed her seat one of the few seats where "women voters outnumbered men"

kalwa-mumbr Kalwa-Mumbra

Kalwa-Mumbra: In this constituency with strong minority vote count, Shiv Sena has fielded popular Marathi actress Deepali Bhosale to prevent an NCP victory. However, DNA reported that, in Muslim majority areas, Bhosale’s posters carried a different name—Sofia Sayyad, post her wedding to Jahangir Sayyad.

nalasopar Nallasopara

Nallasopara: In this seat, former encounter specialist Pradeep Sharma comes in as a Shiv Sena candidate against the influential Thakur community and Bahujan Vikas Aghadi’s (BVA) Kshitij Thakur.

vasa Vasai

Vasai: Sena’s Vijay Patil has work cut out to take on BVA’s Hitendra Thakur.

airol Airoli

Airoli: In Airoli, sitting BJP MLA Sandip Naik made way for his father and former NCP leader Ganesh Naik to contest the elections. Both Ganesh and Sandip had recently defected from the NCP to the BJP, but the Naik senior was unexpectedly denied a ticket from his expected Belapur.