Mazgaon assembly segment is set for a keen contest between NCP candidate Pankaj Bhujbal, son of former deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal, and Shiv Sena nominee Bal Nandgaonkar.
The battle has evinced the interest of many who are keen to know if Pankaj manages to avenge the stunning defeat of his father at the hands of Nandgaonkar in 1995. Mazgaon, which had returned him to power in 1985 and in 1990, turned the tables on Bhujbal when he parted ways with the Sena and contested on an NCP ticket.
A little known Nandgaonkar had then romped home with 41,729 votes as against Bhujbal, who managed to secure only 29,454. The defeat was a bitter lesson for Bhujbal, who did not contest the 1999 polls, instead sought a backdoor entry through membership in the Vidhan Parishad.
This time the senior Bhujbal has avoided Mazgaon and filed his nomination from Yeola. When NCP announced Pankaj as its candidate, it raised many eyebrows. However, the party brushed off criticism saying that Pankaj was selected purely on merit.
The junior Bhujbal has jumped into the fray under the shadow of the Telgi scam and his father's previous defeat. The 31-year-old has been focussing on education, drinking water and other civic amenities as his main issues.
On the other hand, Nandgaonkar has surprisingly decided not to make Telgi scam a campaign issue. "Everyone knows about the scam. There has been so much publicity that I just do not need to speak about it. All are aware of the family's
'cultured background'," he adds.
"Instead, I have chosen to speak about my achievements during my tenure", Nandgaonkar, who defeated NCP candidate Sunita Shinde in the 1999 elections, said. Regularisation of slums and renovation of dilapidated
buildings are the primary concerns of the Sena candidate.
"I also plan to do something for the students in this area, many of whom have to travel out if they wish to pursue higher studies," he said. Unemployment and infrastructure are the other issues of major concern in this constituency.
Also in the fray is Left Front's candidate Dr Narayan Ghagare (CPI), who might eat into the votebank of the Sena and the NCP. "Being a resident of this area for 37 years and as a member of the civic corporation, I am aware of the problems of this constituency," he says.
Ghagare's campaign has revolved around his achievements as a representative in the BMC. "My promises include setting up new chawls, rehabilitation of slums, repair of roads and providing medical facilities," he said. Interestingly the left front has fielded just two candidates in Mumbai, Ghagare from Mazgaon being one of them.
Samajwadi Party candidate Parasbhai Porawal and eight independents are also in the fray in Mazagaon. However, political observers are more interested in knowing whether Nandgaonkar will complete his hat-trick this year. The Sena candidate grins while adding, "I am no giant killer, The people made me one. Let them decide who will rule the roost this time".