Ganesh-naik-Magic-4For a leader who proved his magic in the 2004 assembly elections’ record victory, today NCP Navi Mumbai Supremo Ganesh Naik is perhaps fighting one of the biggest battles of his political career. Our weekend exclusive today tries to find the answer to the question “Will the Ganesh Naik magic work for his son Dr. Sanjeev Naik’s victory in the Thane Lok Sabha Elections 2009?” In the 2004 assembly elections, when you visited any constituency, you were sure to have complicated “who will undercut who” calculations flung at you. The winner could be a Marathi in Thane or an Agri in Panvel edging past the rest. Not in Navi Mumbai. Navi Mumbai was one place where the caste-religion arithmetic or the life force of Marathi heartland politics never worked. If anything worked – it was only Ganesh Naik. At that time when Ganesh Naik went anywhere in Navi Mumbai, the crowd gathered in thousands. In return of their love and admiration, Ganesh Naik was sure to give his followers, supporters and well wishers a wholesome smile, a familiar nod, a wave of hand, an eye to eye connect or even a quick word coming their way. And each went back gratified. Though Ganesh Naik always enjoyed this support of Navi Mumbai, the year 2004 was the peak when all you could see or hear was the Naik name. With Navi Mumbaikar’s unanimously calling Ganesh Naik their favorite choice of leadership, Ganesh Naik’s victory in the 2004 assembly elections was a foregone conclusion. In fact the 2004 assembly battle for the Naiks was not so much to win the seat as it was to post an impressive victory margin. And they did. Ganesh Naik defeated his nearest rival, the Shiv Sena – BJP alliance candidate Sitaram Bhoir by a record margin of 1.18 lakh votes. One of the main reasons for Ganesh Naik’s thumping majority victory was because voters in Belapur then were like stubborn children, fiercely attached to the first family of Navi Mumbai – the Naik family. At that time, if there was no buzz around his rivals Sitaram Bhoir and Haribans Singh, then one reason for this was Ganesh Naik’s enduring charisma and the practice of the Naik family to be there for Navi Mumbaikars in all there happy and testing times. And most importantly, Ganesh Naik has continuously engaged in promoting secularism & brotherhood in Navi Mumbai. The peace and communal harmony in Navi Mumbai when neighboring cities burnt during the Mumbai riots was evidence of this. And it wasn’t just the people’s love and support that gave Ganesh Naik a victory with a thumping majority in 2004 elections but his leadership was widely accepted across local Congress, NCP and even some Shiv Sena leaders in Belapur constituency. The counting day in October 2004 was a testimony of this support when Ganesh Naik was seen surrounded by Vijay Chougule, Pratap Sarnaik and Subhash Bhoir besides many others. Each leader today a force to reckon with – each leader who has left Ganesh Naik’s side and joined rival parties – each leader now challenging the might of Ganesh Naik in this region – and all this has not happened over night but in a span of 5 years. As Ganesh Naik’s list of staunch supporters and loyalists in Thane and nearby cities kept eroding since 2004, so did the loyalty of his own party workers and corporators back home in Navi Mumbai. And it has come to its lowest ebb at a time when Ganesh Naik’s son Dr. Sanjeev Naik is battling against Ganesh Naik’s one-time closest confidante Vijay Chougule in the Thane Lok Sabha elections 2009. Time will tell whether in the wake of all of this the Naik family would be able to get back its lost entity? But one thing is clear that the work done by the Naik family in presenting the secular & vibrant image of Navi Mumbai at all levels is incomparable. The larger fact is that even today most of the citizens of Navi Mumbai have great respect & affection for the Naik family. But today a big challenge lies ahead of Ganesh Naik to prove that he still reigns supreme in Navi Mumbai. Because looking at the ground realities of Lok Sabha elections 2009, one is compelled to question whether Ganesh Naik’s investment is making a secular Navi Mumbai at the cost of political loss will be enough to motivate Navi Mumbaikars to vote the Naik family to power at Delhi or is the badshah of Navi Mumbai politics fighting a lost battle? The tradition of secularism & communal harmony is the hallmark of the Naik family & it is being followed generation to generation. But from “Ganesh Naik or nothing” attitude to the dramatic decline of political supporters and well wishers – the first family of Navi Mumbai is facing the biggest challenge of recent times. With three generations past, May 16 will tell whether the support to the Naik family is as heady and strong even now as it was in 2004 or is Navi Mumbai’s love affair with the Naik family over. Zeba Warsia – NMTV News.

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