After being named Congress’ candidate in Mumbai North, Urmila Matondkar dons her ‘leader’ avatar
Soon after being named the Congress candidate for Mumbai North Lok Sabha seat was announced, Bollywood actress Urmila Matondkar appeared to consciously shed her image as a glamour doll in shorts and slipped into comfortable but eye-catching saris and loose-sleeved blouses. These would be her gladrags for the rough and dusty poll campaign in the blistering summer heat during the poll season.
In the past few days, she has already drawn attention by her 'politically correct, mature comments' on various issues concerning the commoners, middle-classes and the elite alike. Virtually mobbed by the paparazzi on Friday afternoon at the Mumbai North Congress Party office, she graciously took all queries from the media in the presence of a beaming District President Ashok Sutrale and other highly-charged leaders and workers.
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Marathis and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) sympathisers alike cocked their ears when she invoked the teachings of the legendary 20th-century social reformer of Maharashtra, Pandurang Sadashiv Sane, famous as Sane Guruji, instantly endearing her to the locals.
Always smiling, she retorted boldly, questioning the ruling dispensation's policies vis-a-vis religion, freedom of choice, patriotism and the like, setting the tone for her campaign, which promises to be mean and challenging.
Interestingly, Mumbai North - with 17.83 lakh voters - comprises a majority of nearly 40 percent Gujaratis, followed by Maharashtrians, North Indians and the minorities like Muslims and Christians, Jains and Parsis. "However, there were apprehensions of division in the crucial Marathi votes, which will now be prevented by the entry of Urmilaji Matondkar," District Congress Working President Ghanshyam Dubey told IANS. He will be among those entrusted a key role in directing the Matondkar campaign effectively.
[caption id="attachment_237699" align="aligncenter" width="770"] Urmila Matondkar[/caption]
But the local BJP is unfazed by Matondkar's charm and dismissively claimed she is "no challenge" at all to the incumbent Gopal Shetty, who speaks fluent Gujarati and is familiar to the locals here. Mumbai BJP Vice President and the Mumbai North in-charge, well-known lawyer J.P. Mishra, explained that despite Matondkar, Shetty's winning margin, which was around 4.47 lakh in 2014 during the 'Modi wave', will now jump to 5.50 lakh in 2019.
"It must be noted that in 2004 when (actor) Govinda Ahuja trounced (former Union Petroleum Minister) Ram Naik, the victory margin was only 50,000 votes, that too only from the Vasai-Palghar belt which was then part of Mumbai North," Mishra told IANS. Later, after the delimitation exercise in the 2009 when the constituency was re-charted to six assembly segments between Malad and Dahisar, Naik lost by only 6,000 votes to the Congress' Sanjay Nirupam, he pointed out.
"Presently, BJP has four MLAs, (ally) Shiv Sena and (opposition) Congress have one each, and of the 42 municipal corporators, the BJP-Sena alliance has 39. Matondkar will be nowhere in the contest," Mishra confidently asserted. Despite the criticism, the Congress appears buoyed by Matondkar's nomination and is supremely optimistic that the seat - once considered a BJP bastion - would return to the party.
In the past, it has elected stalwarts like the legendary Communist leader S.A. Dange (1952), Defence Minister V. K. Krishna Menon (1957, 1962), the firebrand Mrinal Gore or 'Paniwalai Bai' (1977), Ravindra Varma (1980) and Anoophand Shah (1984). Naik - presently the Uttar Pradesh Governor - was elected in 1989, 1991, 1996, 1998 and 1999, followed by Govinda (2004), Nirupam (2009), and currently Shetty.
A downright 'Mumbaichi Mulgi', Matondkar was born in a small rural hospital in her (maternal) native region of Sindhudurg, to Shrikant and Sunita. Her father Shrikant is a retired officer of the erstwhile Grindlays Bank and her mother Sunita is a retired state government employee. She was educated at the prestigious century-old King George High School, Dadar, which is now renamed as Raje Shivaji Vidyalaya, and then joined the Ruparel College, but couldn't complete her graduation as she got a big break in Bollywood.
With a successful film career behind her, Urmila married a Kashmiri businessman, M.A. Mir and regularly visits her inlaws in the Valley. While her sister is a former actress-turned-lawyer Mamata A. Bhalekar who lives in Mumbai, her eldest brother, the Pune-based Kedar Matondkar is a retired Indian Air Force officer who saw action during the Kargil War of 1999.
[caption id="attachment_236639" align="aligncenter" width="496"] L-R: Milind Deora, Urmila Matondkar, Rahul Gandhi, Sanjay Nirupam[/caption]
"She loves social issues, reading, and has read all major literary works, especially the pennings of Sane Guruji who has influenced her deeply. Urmila is always dedicated and committed in any venture she undertakes, whether acting or social work or politics," her proud father Shrikant told IANS.