The Shiv Sena candidate, Hemant Godse, is giving a tough time to NCP nominee and state public works department minister Chhagan Bhujbal in the Nashik Lok Sabha constituency.
This constituency comprises areas of Nashik city, Sinnar, Igatpuri, Devlali and Trembakeshwar. It has 16 lakh voters—25% Maratha, 25% Other Backward Class, 12% Muslims, 19% Scheduled Tribes and 10% Scheduled Castes. The uniqueness of this constituency is that it has, so far, not sent anyone elected from here a second time to the Lok Sabha.
Godse, who owns realty firm Renuka Developers, recently left MNS to join the Shiv Sena. He is a Maratha. Chhagan Bhujbal is replacing his nephew, Sameer Bhujbal, who defeated Godse by 18,000 votes in the 2009 Lok Sabha election.
Ramesh Jadhav, a small shop owner at Dwarka in Nashik, said Bhujbal was a strong leader who always gave priority to developmental works. "We are going to vote for Bhujbal. We have read that there are several allegations against him, but we are not bothered. As far as our constituency is concerned, he is a good candidate and can change the face of Nashik, which is already on the path of development," said Jadhav.
Sameer Bhujbal, NCP MP, told dna that he had utilised the MP fund to its maximum in the last five years. "Several projects are in the pipeline. If people give us the mandate again, we will surely complete them in the next five years," he said.
Hansraj Deshmukh, a partner in Godse's realty firm, told dna that Godse was a candidate with a clean slate. "He has not been involved in any scam and does not have any corruption charges against him.
Moreover, he's the son of the soil whereas Bhujbal is an outsider. He has come here from Mazgaon (Mumbai) and wants to replicate the Mumbai money-and-muscle-power model here. Besides, Bhujbal is an OBC leader and has displaced several established Maratha leaders in Nashik. Moreover, Bhujbal neither respects his party nor alliance partner Congress. He only has his family and coterie in mind. People in Nashik will send him back to Mumbai by defeating him in the Lok Sabha poll," Deshmukh asserted.
Many in the Maratha community might back Godse. "However, MNS candidate Dr Pradeep Pawar and BSP nominee Dinkar Patil are also from the Maratha community. So the 25% Maratha vote share is likely to be divided among these three. Bhujbal has good support from the OBC community as well as the minorities. These factors increase the chances of a Bhujbal victory," said a local political observer.
Shiv Sena activists Narendra Sontakke told dna that this time around, people would not be fooled by MNS chief Raj Thackeray's false propaganda. "People know that the NCP and the MNS have a secret tie-up to defeat Godse. So, they won't vote for the MNS. The MNS has been governing the Nashik Municipal Corporation for the last four years. People are disappointed with their work. So, there is no question of splitting the Marathi votes," said Hemant Godse.