More than five years after the party lost its fortress, the Dadar-Mahim belt, to the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, first in the 2009 assembly polls and later during 2012 civic polls, the saffron outfit has managed to make a strong comeback in the Parliamentary poll here.
The Raj Thackeray-led MNS enjoys strong presence in the stretch with Nitin Sardesai being local legislator. The MNS had won in all six wards from the constituency during civic polls.
It was Sena's turn to settle the score this time. Its candidate Rahul Shewale not just registered a pleasing victory, he polled thrice the votes garnered by MNS candidate Aditya Shirdokar in the Mahim assembly seat, covering Dadar and Prabhadevi.
According to figures released by the poll panel, Shewale secured 74,639 votes from the assembly segment. Congressman Eknath Gaikwad bagged 27,119 votes, pushing Shirodkar to third slot. The worrying factor for Raj Thackeray is his party's tally has plunged in the assembly segment from 34,115 during 2009 Lok Sabha polls.
"The loss of Dadar had hurt Balasaheb (late Shiv Sena supremo) badly. Anything that would hurt saheb, would hurt sainiks. When alive, he wanted to win back the parliamentary seat along with Dadar. Now, the day has dawned for us," Shewale reacted.
However, local office-bearers feel it is the MNS chief's 'batata wada-chicken soup' remark that upset sainiks. "We aggressively reached out to every household in Dadar and Mahim. Those who had left Sena to join MNS earlier also voted for us this time. They too were hurt by the soup remark," said Trushna Vishwasrao, zonal head (women's wing) for south-central constituency.
Another Sena functionary was blunter. "Balasaheb fed him (Raj Thackeray) all his life. And what he did in return? Discuss family issue in public? In contrast, Uddhavji appeared to be patient by not reacting to Raj's remarks," he said, adding the saffron party will consolidate furthermore its position in the stretch during the upcoming assembly polls.
The MNS though sought to downplay the remark, saying the Modi wave helped the Sena. "Rajsaheb's remarks were conveniently perceived by Sena. Also, it is not that we fell short of efforts during campaign. It is the Modi effect that has helped the Shiv Sena, that's it," a MNS leader from Dadar said, wishing not to be named.