The battle for Mumbai on Friday saw the three major parties — the BJP, the Shiv Sena and the Congress — raise the political pitch in their traditional strongholds. While CM Devendra Fadnavis tore into Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray’s “love for the Marathi manoos” at a rally in Thakurdwar, Congress’s Sanjay Nirupam, campaigning in Dharavi, declared his party would ensure Shiv Sena and BJP corporators responsible for the graft in the civic body are “jailed” if his party comes to power. Uddhav Thackeray, meanwhile, launched another tirade against the BJP top brass while addressing sabhas in Marathi heartlands in Worli and Lalbaug.
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While the Thakurdwar seat has remained loyal to the BJP with a sizeable affluent Gujarati population, Fadnavis invoked the Marathi manoos card. Without naming Uddhav or the Shiv Sena, Fadnavis said, “Their love for the Marathi manoos is limited to dishing out fake emotional speeches.” A direct attack followed, with Fadnavis saying, “It is because of Shiv Sena’s wrong policies that the Marathi manoos has been thrown out of Mumbai.” With a sizeable crowd present, Fadnavis blamed the Sena for corruption in the BMC.
“So that a contractor can earn, they have been allotting road repair contracts every year. At the same time, contractors are paid for annual drain cleaning contracts when the silt hasn’t even been removed. The taxpayers’ hard-earned money has been used to fill contractors’ pockets,” he added. Within minutes, Thackeray countered the jibes with a direct barb at Fadnavis himself. Addressing the rally in Worli, Thackeray rekindled the episode of the “abrupt transfer” of former Mumbai top cop Rakesh Maria. “The BJP transferred the (then) municipal commissioner (Sitaram Kunte) and (then) Mumbai police commissioner Rakesh Maria. The CM should make public the reasons for Maria’s transfer amid investigations into the Sheena Bora murder case. And if Maria was guilty, why has no action been taken against him,” said Thackeray.
Thackeray then went on the raise various issues dogging the police force. Residential quarters of the police are located a few meters from the venue of Thackeray’s address. Thackeray also fired another sharp volley at Fadnavis, stating, “You can’t win Mumbai while badmouthing it.” The CM on Wednesday had compared Mumbai to Patna. In Dharavi, a Congress bastion, Nirupam was seen cautioning voters not to fall for the “political gimmickry” of the Shiv Sena and the BJP. “Please do not fall prey to it. Their split is nothing but a scripted drama to polarise voters. I urge you to remain loyal to the Congress. No contract in the BMC’s standing committee can be allotted without the BJP’s backing,” he said.
But the nervousness in the Congress camp was palpable. “We desperately need to keep our voter base intact,” a Congress leader told The Indian Express later. There was drama when a supposed AIMIM support tried to interrupt Nirupam’s speech, just as the latter was taking dig at Asaduddin Owaisi and brother Akbaruddin. “AIMIM is a broker for BJP and Muslim voters must be careful of them,” said Nirupam. The assembled crowd however gave a lukewarm response to the rest of the rally, even as Nirupam and Gaikwad doled out promises of free 24*7 water, pothole-free roads, hawkers policy, and improved waste management.