Manohar Joshi, Poonam Mahajan face protests from dissidents


Mumbai: The Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party are facing dissidence over their seat-sharing for the Oct 13 Maharashtra assembly polls as supporters of some aspirants Saturday attacked the houses of former Lok Sabha speaker Manohar Joshi and BJP candidate Poonam Mahajan here Sunday.

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Police said that supporters of Sada Sarvankar, Sena legislator from Dadar, went on a rampage at the upscale Oceania building at Shivaji Park, where Joshi lives on the ninth floor, shouting slogans against him and pelting stones Sunday afternoon.

They damaged a vehicle in the building compound purportedly belonging to a member of the Joshi family, amid reports that former Mumbai mayor Milind Vaidya, and not Sarvankar, will be the Sena candidate from Dadar, stronghold of the former speaker and former chief minister.

Around the same time, hundreds of BJP activists came on the streets to protest the candidature of Poonam Mahajan, daughter of slain party leader Pramod Mahajan, in Ghatkopar, a northeast Mumbai suburb.

Incidentally, hours before her nomination was announced in New Delhi Saturday evening, her uncle and senior BJP leader Gopinath Munde had said here that Poonam’s candidature was “not finalised”.

The prestigious Ghatkopar constituency, dominated by Gujarati settlers, was eyed by senior city party leader Pravin Chedda.

Poonam herself wanted to contest the May 2009 Lok Sabha elections from Mumbai North-East constituency, once held by her father, but she was denied the ticket.

Thereafter, she had made a high-profile visit to Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray, rattling the BJP leadership, which promised to accommodate her in the assembly elections.

So far, no arrests have been made in connection with the incidents at the Manohar Joshi residence.

There have been other dissident voices too confronting the BJP. On Saturday, Vinay Natu, a senior BJP leader from the coastal Konkan region, rebelled against the party leadership for giving the Guhagar seat in Ratnagiri district to the Shiv Sena.

While the Sena has already announced the candidature of Ramdas Kadam, leader of opposition in the outgoing assembly, Natu is likely to contest as an Independent from Guhagar.

The opposition alliance agreed to a seat-sharing formula in which Sena will contest 169 and the BJP the remaining 119 seats.

In the 2004 elections, the Sena had contested 171 and the BJP 117 seats. The alliance had jointly bagged 119 seats against the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party’s tally of 139.

The BJP reluctantly parted with the Guhagar seat to the Sena. The seat had become a bone of contention between the two allies, prompting intervention by Sena chief Bal Thackeray.

Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray said that while his father Bal Thackeray would not campaign for the combine, “his blessings are with us and after our victory, he will join a victory rally”.

The Sena-BJP seat understanding came a week after the Third Front announced its plans to contest 200 seats and the MNS declared plans to fight in 125 seats.