Ganesh Naik’s litmus test for his political survival is due next month. The Mayor elections in Navi Mumbai will decide whether he will politically live for another day or he will be lost in political wilderness forever.
Ganesh Naik’s political charisma has fallen. It was established first by Sanjeev Naik’s defeat is in parliamentary elections, then by Ganesh Naik’s own embrassing defeat against his arch rival Manda Mhatre in assembly polls and then in NMMC polls where they had to allign with Indepedents and Congress. The NCP continues to underplay these defeats but even the NCP cant deny the fact that the public love that Ganesh Naik once enjoyed is dwindling. And these reports have reached the senior leaders of the party as well. It became public when both NCP stalwarts Ajit Pawar and Sunil Tatkare asked Ganesh Naik to leave Navi Mumbai politics and start working in other regions.
Ganesh Naik’s political downslide continues as the NCP particularly failed in Panvel municipal polls and later in Mira Bhayander elections which was once a stronghold of Naiks. A top minister of cabinet for 15 years, Ganesh Naik’s political graph has fallen down drastically and it is in this backdrop that the Mayor elections are taking place next month.
There are many front runners for the office of Mayor in Navi Mumbai. From the ruling NCP, those who have reportedly started lobbying are J D Sutar, Dr. Jayaji Nath and Vinod Mhatre. Though a debutant corporator, Vinod Mhatre’s name is right on top in the list of front runners because he is Sagar Naik’s father in law. And it is not hidden from anyone that in pre meetings Ganesh Naik has openly endorsed that in the absence of Ganesh Naik, Sagar Naik is Ganesh Naik unofficially making Sagar Naik Ganesh Naik’s political heir. Moreover, Sagar Naik has made the Mayor’s anti chambers his own office from where he keeps an eye on corporators and their activities. To the extent that he is known to even call up corporators during Standing Committee and General body meetings to dictate them. His demanding nature and dominance has upset NCP’s senior corporators to the extent that in one press conference, Sagar Naik was seen spying on what Mayor Sudhakar Sonawane was telling the press and sending him chits with commands of what to say. A few chits later, Mayor Sudhakar Sonawane was seen throwing one chit in anger. Ganesh Naik however have turned a blind eye towards all this. According to sources, if Sagar Naik has his way, Vinod Mhatre could be the Mayoral candidate of NCP. On the other hand, in the opposition camp Vijay Chougule himself is the front runner for Mayoral candidate. Having proved his might against sitting MLA Sandeep Naik in last municipal polls, Vijay Chougule has emerged a political force to reckon with in Navi Mumbai. Vijay Chougule has a strong chance of winning the elections.
THE NUMBERS GAME
Total : 111 Corporators
NCP : 57 Corporators (Including 5 Indepedents)
Shiv Sena : 38 Corporators
BJP : 6 Corporators
Congress : 10 Corporators
While NCP has the magical figure of 57 on paper, three votes of Gavte wont go to NCP until Naveen Gavte is in jail. Also, reliable sources have confirmed to NMTV that independent corporator Sayli Shinde will also not vote for NCP. This brings down the NCP numbers to 53. And if its a bad day for NCP even the Congress might align with Shiv Sena. Then with 38 Shiv Sena corporators, 6 BJP corporators, 10 Congress corporators and 1 Independent, Vijay Chougule will attain the magical figure of 55, paving way for Ganesh Naik’s most upsetting defeat in NMMC till day. Not to forget that the loss could be in higher numbers if NCP’s corporators rebel seeing that Ganesh Naik continues to encourage dynastic politics by making Vinod Mhatre the Mayoral candidate of NCP. Even the Suresh Kulkarni and Shubhangi Patil factors remains a headache for NCP. Suresh Kulkarni has been cosying with Shiv Sena lately while Shubhangi Patil is reportedly running Standing Committee affairs at the behest of Vijay Chougule.
In the next Mayor elections, Congress will be the undisputed kingmakers but the most powerful factor will remain the cost at which corporators will sell themselves. So money factor will rule the roost during the Mayoral elections. Who emerges the tallest leader of them all will unveil when the D Day for Mayor election arrives next month.