With Mumbai being an amalgamation of varying ethnic and social fabric, political parties are roping in specific leaders to target particular social and ethnic groups. The BJP has taken the lead over most of the other political parties roping in senior party members like Gujarat’s Chief Minister Anandi Patel to address Gujaratis, Rajasthan’s CM Vasundhara
Raje to canvas amongst Rajasthani and Marwari groups and spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain to woo the Muslim community in the city.
The party has adopted an intensive campaign strategy— get down to even the smallest residential societies to strike the right communal cord.
Amongst all the other parties, BJP has fielded maximum number of star campaigners (54) of which 31 leaders are from outside Maharashtra. Congress, on the contrary, has listed 40 leaders as star campaigners of whom 16 come from outside the state— almost half of BJP’s army. Regional parties like Shiv Sena has 36 star campaigners, MNS has 30 and NCP has 39 for the state assembly elections.
“We have decided to send party leaders to areas where they have close relation with the voters. Voters of a particular community will come to listen if a leader belonging to their own community is addressing,” said Madhav Bhandari, BJP spokesperson.
In the city, BJP has fielded Gujarat’s Anandi Patel who has addressed half a dozen rallies to the Gujarati community. On September 27, she addressed industrialists and investors, chiefly Gujaratis, on the 108th anniversary of Indian Merchants’ Chamber to promote investment in Gujarat.
Similarly, on October 6 Rajasthan’s CM Raje addressed two rallies in narrow lanes of South Mumbai to specifically woo Rajasthani migrants living in the city. “Rajasthanis living here have contributed to the economy of the state. They should now help in forming a good government just like they did in Rajasthan,” she said amidst enthusiastic applause of Marwaris.
Ghulam Peshiwam, a social activist, said, “The other day Shahnawaz Hussain conducted two-three small rallies in Muslim pockets like Behrampada, Bandra East and Jogeshwari to interact with people. I think huge rallies have little meaning as every party does that. Such a method is more effective.”
Congress and Sena members have, however, tagged BJP’s strategy to target communities like Gujaratis, Marwadis and Muslims as ‘division politics’, with South Mumbai MP Arvind Sawant saying: “This is what happened exactly during British raaj”.
Bhandari, however, said, “We are just trying to reach out to maximum people to make a better impact. This does not mean we are dividing on communal lines.”
Other parties have been taking a more traditional route. Former finance minister P Chidambaram addressed media in his visit to the city. Former MP of South Mumbai Milind Deora has been campaigning for Congress candidates in Malabar Hills, Mumbadevi, Colaba and Byculla. Likewise Sena’s Sawant has been doing routine rallies for candidates in several parts of the state.
A media manager in Congress said that the handpicking of select communities by each senior BJP leader is a smart method of grabbing voter’s attention.
“There are not many senior leaders who can come and campaign for specific communities. Rahul Gandhi seems to have failed people’s trust and Sonia Gandhi is the only choice.
There is anger against congress’s ex-cabinet ministers and they cannot be roped in to address crowds,” the manager justified.
A campaign manager in NCP also admitted that BJP has unleashed almost all its leaders for the state assembly elections.
“NCP being a regional party has not been able to send senior leaders to societies or residential areas for a one on one interaction. Only Sharad Pawar and Supriya Sule are attracting huge rallies.”