THE verdict in the civic elections on Thursday was a blow to the Samajwadi Party and All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen (AIMIM). While the Samajwadi Party’s count dropped from nine seats in 2012 to six seats, the MIM managed to win just two seats, with both parties blaming each other for their poor performance because of division of votes.
Both the MIM, which fielded 59 candidates, and the SP with 76 candidates, had focussed on areas such as Mumbadevi and Byculla, which fall under E ward. Of the seven seats in the ward, even though the MIM fielded six candidates and the SP five, only the SP was able to secure one seat in ward 211, where incumbent corporator and group leader Rais Shaikh defeated MIM candidate Mohammad Adil Qureshi.
SP leader Farhan Azmi said that even though he had expected that the party would win at least 18 seats, he was happy with the outcome. “Our party had worked hard. But unfortunately, last-minute changes were made. We should have stuck to our original choices. However, we have secured Govandi and have gained entry in South Mumbai. I now hope we will win at least two seats in the state elections,” he said.
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Blaming MIM for spoiling their chances, he said, “We wanted to contain MIM and show Congress the mirror since an integration of the parties should have been attempted, like in Uttar Pradesh. We shouldn’t have feilded so many candidates since we weren’t quite ready. But our focus was on containing MIM,” he said. MIM’s only MLA Waris Pathan alleged that the NCP and Congress had collectively helped the SP win. “We have managed to win two seats despite contesting for the first time and have opened our account in Mumbai. We have also been able to keep our vote bank intact from 2014. The NCP and the Congress played a game and contested to make sure we lose, which is wrong,” he said.
According to journalist Sarfaraz Arzoo, the four-way division of the Muslim vote among made the fight a close one. “Despite having an MLA from the Byculla constituency, MIM did not have faces with a local profile, which cost them a lot of votes as the SP and the Congress had better candidates. The SP’s decision to pitch Rais Shaikh was a wise one since he had a headstart over all his rivals, while the others were struggling to get a foothold in the area,” he said.
Aamir Edresy, president of NGO Association of Muslim Professionals, said that the MIM did not have a strong local team during campaigning. “The system through which the party had handed out the tickets was not good, which resulted in weak candidates contesting for the party from several wards. By and large, the results indicate that the city has not accepted MIM as a party,” he said.
Edresy said that the two seats that the party won, one in ward 145 from Anushakti Nagar and the other in ward 92 from Bandra East, were both surprise victories.
In areas like Byculla, however, while corporator Javed Juneja from ward 213 (Kamathipura) and another corporator from the party, Manoj Jamsutkar’s wife Sonam Jamsutkar (Mazgaon) from ward 210 managed to win two seats, Samajwadi Party was able to gain entry into ward 210 (Madanpura).
Both the parties had focussed on M East ward, which includes areas like Govandi, Mandala and Mankhurd. Out of the 15 seats in the M East ward, MIM had fielded candidates in nine and SP had fielded candidates in 11. MIM candidate Shanawaz Shaikh was the only one able to secure a win in ward 145.
Even though the overall count for the party dropped, the SP managed to secure five seats, one more than its current strength in M East ward. The majority of the seats in the ward, however, were won by the Shiv Sena with six seats. “In the absence of strong candidates from Congress and a leading Muslim-oriented party, Muslims have taken up Sena as a third option. the Congress has obviously been discarded from the area and people have picked Sena instead,” Arzoo said. Congress had fielded seven Muslim candidates in M East ward.
A member of MIM, requesting that he not be named, said that the party had not conducted any analysis and the major decisions were not taken at the local level. “Yusuf Balala, who is an MLA from Hyderabad, was taking all the decisions for BMC polls. We needed a local leader to guide us who could connect with the people. The party leaders instead monitored the elections from Hyderabad, even though the politics in both the cities are very different,” he said.