Shiv Sena rebel to slums: BJP faces an uphill task in Ghatkopar West

Ram Kadam, a former Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) legislator who joined the BJP in 2014 and was elected from Ghatkopar West constituency, is now facing a Shiv Sena rebel this election, making it a multi-cornered fight.

Dotted with slums of Asalfa, Surya Nagar, Azad Nagar, Jagdusha Nagar among others, the constituency is dominated by Maharashtrians, followed by Gujaratis, North Indians, Muslims and South Indians. Kadam has put up posters in Gujarati to woo voters.

Kadam became a known name in Mumbai after he announced a reward of ₹1 crore for breaking dahi handi. He was elected as an MNS MLA in 2009 and BJP legislator in 2014. He is now renominated by the BJP. In 2018, during the dahi handi celebrations, he remarked that he would help boys get married by kidnapping the girls who reject them. Later, Kadam issued a public apology.

The Congress has pitted the party’s Mumbai general secretary, Anand Shukla, an editor of a Hindi newspaper, against Kadam. He also faces Maharashtra Navnirman Sena’s (MNS) Ganesh Chukkal and Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi’s (VBA) Ganesh Owhal.

In the 2014 Assembly elections, Sena’s Sudhir More stood second, followed by MNS’s Dilip Lande and Congress’s Ramgovind Yadav. Sanjay Bhalerao, who joined the Shiv Sena from MNS after the 2017 civic elections, has worked in the constituency for 14 years. His wife, Archana, is also a corporator from the area. Bhalerao says he is contesting as an independent on “public demand”.

“People are very angry with Kadam who made no use of the opportunities he got. A majority of the area house slums on hilltop and people living there face a lot of problems during the monsoon. Safety is an issue, so are constant traffic snarls,” said Bhalerao.

A local activist from Ghatkopar said that Bhalerao would have won if there was no alliance between the BJP and Sena. However, with the Sena and BJP workers supporting Kadam, he would find it difficult.

“If the Sena rebel did not contest, Kadam would have not even campaigned,” said the activist.

Congress’s Shukla said Marathi votes are likely to get divided among Kadam, Bhalerao and Chukkal. Despite repeated attempts over a week, Kadam did not respond to calls.

Swati Sheth, a resident of Ghatkopar West, said, “It takes 30 minutes to cross a five-minute stretch on LBS Road. The roads are in bad shape owing to Metro work.”

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