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He’s the reason why Govinda could win

Prachi Jatania/Express News Service

Posted: Apr 09, 2004 at 1228 hrs IST

Hitendra Thakur’s support to Govinda might just swing the votes in the actor’s favour in Mumbai-North.

His name’s synonymous with land-grabbing scandals in Vasai. Hitendra Thakur also has the infamous reputation of spreading terror in the Vasai-Virar area.

But with elections around the corner, all talk of him supporting actor and childhood buddy Govinda has put the local the Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) in a defensive mood.

Why such a fuss about his campaigning for Govinda? ‘‘I am only helping another Virar resident,’’ says the 45-year-old.

Sitting in his plush office at Virar (W), it’s easy to see the hold Thakur has over locals. Visitors pour in with all kinds of troubles—financial, medical, personal.

Within minutes, an informal darbar gathers with harried sarpanchs from nearby talukas hoping to get a hearing from ‘appa’.

‘‘I’ve always supported the Congress. Govinda is apne ghar ka. So, as a friend, I’m campaigning for him,’’ says Thakur, very matter-of-fact.

Ironically, Thakur has always maintained good relations with Union Minister for Petroleum Ram Naik (BJP)—Govinda’s opposition in the Mumbai-North constituency. In fact, he’s even been spotted with Naik at his political campaigns.

But that’s unlikely to happen this year.

So why this change of heart? The question doesn’t go down too well with the burly and intimidating MLA.

‘‘In politics, there are no enemies—just rivals. When have I ever supported Ram Naik?’’ he asks. There’s no doubting the controversial politician’s undying support to the Virar ka chokra.

Political observers may have reacted to Govinda’s entry into politics with scepticism. But not Thakur.

Thakur’s convinced his protege will win. ‘‘We’re sure Govinda will win. So what if it’s his first time? You have to start afresh somewhere,’’ he says, a tad philosophically.

The votes will pour in, says Thakur, who always moves around with two gun-toting bodyguards.

‘‘It’ll be tougher for the five-time winner, people demand accountability,’’ says Thakur, smiling.

Hitendra Thakur (45) is a third-time MLA from the Vasai-Virar area. In the late 80s and early 90s, his elder brother Bhai Thakur built his underworld empire in the area by spreading terror. Land-grabbing and extortion were some allegations against the Thakurs.

After his expulsion from the Congress in the early 90s, Hitendra remained an Independent MLA.

Between 1995-1999, Hitendra supported the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance government. For the last four years, he has been with the Democratic Front.

prachijatania@expressindia.com

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