The Shiv Sena may have fielded 11 Gujarati-Marwari candidates for the BMC elections, but there are only two that the party is pinning its hopes on. And, with just a week to go for the polls next Tuesday, it is leaving no stone unturned to support the campaigns of the duo – Mangal Bhanushali and Mukesh Karia, who were both earlier with the BJP.
With both facing trouble from within the Sena cadre, who see them as outsiders, Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray has deployed a team of senior leaders to help the two and has asked the Sena rank and file to fall in line and support them.
Bhanushali is contesting from ward no 131 in Ghatkopar (East) while Karia is fighting from Mulund ward no 108. In a contest that is being touted as the biggest Gujarati vs Marathi fight in the city, Bhanushali will take on the BJP’s Bhalchandra Shirsat and the NCP’s Rakhi Jadhav.
Karia is fighting the BJP’s Neil Somaiya, son of BJP MP Kirit Somaiya. With the senior Somaiya continuing his attack on Uddhav Thackeray, the Sena is keen to take revenge by defeating Neil.
Sena leaders said Thackeray has deployed a team of Sena functionaries to help the two. Yuva Sena chief Aaditya Thackeray held a rally for Bhanushali on Tuesday, followed by one for Karia in Mulund on Wednesday. The Sena has also lined up a series of meetings of Gujarati leaders like Hemraj Shah and Bharat Danani in Ghatkopar and Mulund.
Just a day after the Sena announced Bhanushali as its candidate, there was dissent in the party’s Ghatkopar unit. Uddhav moved swiftly to contain the disgruntled Shiv Sainiks who even damaged Bhanushali’s car. Uddhav asked his aides to ensure that there were no further such incidents.
Bhanushali told Mirror that the initial problems with the Sena workers had been resolved and that he was confident of winning. “My campaign is way ahead of the others and the BJP is nowhere in sight. The response from the people is great.
Aadityaji’s meeting on Tuesday was packed and it showed that the people have accepted me as the Sena candidate,” he said.
Karia’s candidature too faced initial hiccups. “Karia was facing some problems with local Sena functionaries who were not cooperating with him. So Uddhavji deployed Aadesh Bandekar to resolve the issue,” said a Sena functionary.
A confident Karia is focusing on his door-to-door campaign. “The people are not happy with the BJP and will vote for the Shiv Sena. There were certain local issues but they have been resolved by the party leadership. Uddhavji has lent all the support I need for the campaign,” Karia said.