A make or break byelection for Shiv Sena

Mumbai | Updated: Nov 14 2005, 06:07am hrs
Its do-or-die for beleaguered Shiv Sena. Bal Thackereys party will have to strain hard to make it in the fiercely fought byelections in the Malvan assembly segment (in coastal Sindhudurg) and Bandra parliamentary constituency (north-west Mumbai), scheduled to take place on November 19.

Malvan, in particular, has become a literal battleground for both Narayan Rane, the rebel Shiv Sena leader and now a revenue minister, who is contesting as a Congress nominee, and Shiv Senas Parshuram Upakar.

In Bandra, an old Sena hand and 71-year leader, Madhukar Sarpotdar, has been fielded to take on Congress nominee, Priya Dutt, daughter of former Union minister, late Sunil Dutt.

Attacks and counter-attacks from both the Rane camp as well as Shiv Sena are being reported almost every day. The state election department has admitted that the situation is tense but under control. The state government has deployed the Rapid Action Force and para military force to carry out elections in a peaceful manner.

In Malvan, which has been a Sena bastion since 1990, Mr Rane poses a serious challenge to Shiv Senas Mr Upakar. Curiously, Sena, which is yet to recover from the bodyblow it received after Mr Rane challenged the party leadership by claiming that party posts were on sale, had to send a high-powered Sena team, comprising executive president Uddhav Thackeray, former chief minister Manohar Joshi, firebrand leader Raj Thackeray, leader of Opposition in the assembly, Ramadas Kadam, Malvan to maintain the partys supremacy. The team has been backed by hundreds of second-rung leaders, parliamentarians, legislators, corporators etc.

In addition, the ageing Sena supremo, too, is stepping in. Mr Thackeray is expected to address election meetings on November 16. In fact, Sena leaders and local supporters are banking heavily on Mr Thackerays proposed visit to boost their morale.

Thackeray junior, Uddhav, who has been blamed by Mr Rane for Senas debacle, has termed the latter as mini Lalu Prasad for his present reign of terror. On the other hand, Mr Rane has alleged that Sena has been on terror spreading spree mainly because of an influx of a large number of Sena members in Malvan constituency.

However, the Congress party is happy as it hopes to regain this lost bastion after Mr Ranes victory. Congresss election ally, Nationalist Congress Party, though, has extended support to Mr Rane but has been shrewd enough not to send senior ministers and leaders for campaigning. NCPs local leaders and workers are divided over their partys decision as some of them have been openly supporting the Sena nominee. NCPs rank and file is yet to forget the brutal murder of party member, Satyvijay Bhise, allegedly by Sena activists ahead of the October 2004 assembly elections.