Despite much hype about the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) being a potential threat to the Shiv Sena and Congress in the bypoll for the Bandra East Assembly seat, which has a sizable Muslim population, the party took a beating, with its vote base plummeting by nearly 40 per cent compared to last year’s Assembly polls.
Data from the state’s electoral office shows the party led by the Owaisi brothers from Hyderabad lost its vote share even in the Muslim-dominated areas of Behrampada, Naupada and Bharatnagar. The MIM’s loss here was the Congress’s gain as the party reclaimed what had been its traditional voter base until the MIM started making inroads before the Assembly elections last year.
Going by the data from 20 polling stations of Bharat Nagar, the MIM’s Rahbar Khan managed 4,043 votes in the bypoll, down from 5,575 votes that he had polled in October. Narayan Rane of the Congress, a former chief minister, secured 3,261 votes here, a vast improvement from the 995 votes that the relatively unknown Sanjeev Bagdi had managed last year.
It was same in the pre-dominantly Muslim areas around the Bandra East station and Behrampada, where information from 24 polling booths along the stretch shows the MIM’s votes nearly halved to 3,238 from the 5,961 in October. Once again, it was Congress that benefited substantially, polling 4,407 votes here compared to 1,076 in October 2014.
Shaikh Farhan, a college student from Behrampada, said though he could not vote as he is not an adult yet, his elder brother who had voted for the MIM last time chose to switch to the Congress this time. “There was a newness to MIM last time. Everyone was talking about it. But this time, we heard Narayan Rane’s speeches and he appeared to be balanced. Friends and elders also advised us that he will do good work. So, he voted for the Congress.”
Not just the Congress, but the Shiv Sena too benefited at the cost of MIM. The party upped its share in the Bharat Nagar slums to 917 votes from 607 earlier.
Buoyed by its performance in Bandra East in the October 2014 Assembly elections and looking to secure its political fortunes in Mumbai, the MIM had run a high-pitched campaign in the constituency. The Owaisi brothers and party leaders addressed at least seven public meetings in a little over 20 days, mainly in the Muslim and Dalit communities, which the Congress views as its voters.
Shiv Sena’s Trupti Sawant won the bypoll, held on April 11, with a lead of 19,008 over Congress’s Narayan Rane.
Dharmesh Vyas, a former Congress corporator, said, “A fall in the MIM’s vote share shows that the people have rejected the communal touch that was visible in their campaign, and want to go with someone who will offer them development. MIM is playing a very dangerous divide. Its leaders speeches are anti-India and anti-Hindu.”
Waris Pathan, the MIM MLA from Byculla, said, “Our vote share dropped because the loyalties towards parties such as Samajwadi Party, NCP and even the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena consolidated with the Congress against us. The party will try to find out the reasons for which our votes went to the Congress and even the Shiv Sena and take corrective action.”