Ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, both Shiv Sena and the MNS have toned down their earlier shrill rhetoric against north Indian migrants, who played a key role in UPA’s clean sweep in Mumbai during the 2009 LS polls.
With the 2009 polls held in the backdrop of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena’s attacks on north Indians, voters from the community gravitated towards the Congress-NCP combine, which won all six seats in the country’s financial capital. The north Indian voters’ impact was also felt in other regions in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, with the Sena, BJP managing only one of nine seats in the Mumbai-Thane-Palghar belt, which has traditionally been dominated by the saffron combine.
This time, while the MNS has toned down its anti-outsider stance, the Shiv Sena under Uddhav Thackeray too has been extending an olive branch to north Indian voters, who account for 27 per cent of voters.
The voting trend in the community could again become a deciding factor this election, political analysts feel.
Senior journalist and political analyst Anurag Tripathi says the BJP stands a better chance this time. “There is a Modi surge in parts of UP and Bihar. North Indian voters in Mumbai and other urban pockets are connected to their native places and political developments there have influenced their voting patterns in the past. Further, since the last poll, the BJP has made concerted efforts to reach out to the community. Half of office-bearers in BJP’s Mumbai unit are north Indians. On the other hand, the Congress has made little efforts in this regard,” he says.
Acclaimed literary analyst Dr Ramji Tripathi agrees that the anti-North Indian tirade had lessened in intensity, but he feels the Hindi-speaking vote bank will be split. “Voters from our region are more sensitive to caste politics and regionalism resulting in division of the vote bank,” Dr Tripathi says.
Muslims comprise about 40 per cent of the north Indian voting population. Anurag says this would mainly go with the Congress. Congress’s minority leader Naseem Khan says the inclusion of Ram Mandir and the uniform civil code issue in the BJP manifesto will further help his party in consolidating this voting base. Ruling out the influence of Modi over north Indian voters, Khan argues that the recent cosying up of the BJP to the MNS had impacted BJP’s appeal among these voters.
Congress MP Sanjay Nirupam, who is seeking a second term, agrees. “The voter is confused and angry following the move.” Congress leaders, including Kripashankar Singh, have been urging the community to retain their loyalty with the Congress.
BJP’s general secretary Amarjeet Mishra, meanwhile, says the party has sent out teams in pockets dominated by the Hindi-speaking population to take “Modi’s message of development and growth to such pockets”.
Meanwhile, with schools breaking for vacations, about 20 per cent of north Indian voters are expected to miss elections due to commitments at their native places.
Both Congress and BJP have been trying to convince their loyal voters to stay put in Mumbai till polling day on April 24.