In most places across the city, the Shiv Sena campaign for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections is largely based on anti-incumbency and ‘Vote for Narendra Modi’. However, in the areas of Dadar, Shivaji Park and Mahim — the saffron party’s strongholds, where Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) has aggressively made inroads — the Sena campaign includes an ‘advisory’ besides the Modi card and the anti-incumbency flavour.
“Don’t vote for MNS. If you vote for MNS, it will mean voting for the Congress. If you want to see Narendra Modi as your Prime Minister, don’t vote for the MNS,” a Shiv Sena leader boomed on a microphone, standing atop
an open-deck truck bathed in saffron paint and sporting flags of the Shiv Sena, and its alliance partners BJP and Republican Party of India (RPI).
The speaker stood right next to the Sena candidate for the constituency, Rahul Shewale, who was waving at people watching from balconies, and former MLA Suresh Gambhir, Sena’s candidate for the south central constituency for the 2009 Lok Sabha elections.
As the long entourage snaked through Mahim’s Machimar colony, the arterial Tulsi Pipe road and LJ Road, to the JK Sawant Marg, flanked by old buildings and chawls, and ultimately Shivaji Park, the leader holding the microphone kept repeating this message. “Remember the work that former Sena MLAs Suresh Gambhir and Sada Sarvankar have done for you. Remember the work Shewale, a civil engineer, has done as the standing committee chairman. Vote for the ‘bow and arrow.’ Don’t vote for the MNS,” he said.
Finishing his rally at Shivaji Park on Thursday, Shewale told Newsline, “We haven’t campaigned like this elsewhere. It is only in Dadar where we are trying to warn people that votes for the MNS will ultimately help in giving Congress a lead.”
It is widely believed that the Shiv Sena had lost in the previous Lok Sabha election as many of the anti-Congress votes, which would have otherwise all gone to Sena, went in favour of MNS, which was at that time relatively nascent and a first-timer in the Lok Sabha elections.
Sena’s Gambhir had polled 1,81,817 votes of the total 5,98,837 or roughly 30 percent of the total votes polled in the Mumbai south central constituency. However, he lost to Congress’ Eknath Gaikwad by a margin of 75,706, while MNS’ Shweta Parulkar polled 1,08,341 votes.
There was another chink in the traditionally Shiv Sena bastion of Dadar a few months later, when MNS’ Nitin Sardesai won the Assembly election, trumping not only TV actor Adesh Bandekar of the Shiv Sena, but also Sada Sarvankar, a Sena leader, who had at that time defected to the Congress from the Shiv Sena. He later came back to the party.
Later in the civic elections of 2012, the MNS completely dislodged Shiv Sena from its bastion of Dadar and Mahim, by winning all seven councillor wards of the area. Prior to that, five of the seven wards had Sena corporators.