As the final numbers came in and threw into uncertainty the possibility of the Shiv Sena retaining the BMC, in the heart of Marathi-speaking central Mumbai, many party faithfuls still appeared cheerful. “Balasaheb is looking down at us today… he would have been happy with our efforts. We fought hard so that we don’t disappoint him,” said 32-year-old Parel resident Nikhil Chavan, a Sena supporter who came out with almost the entire neighbourhood during counting of votes.
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The large presence of Sainiks had forced the police to restrict vehicular movement on Pandhurang Budhkar Marg. The hundreds who came out cheered loudly each time the Sena took the lead in wards 193-199. This had a ripple affect in the area, with traffic seriously disrupted for over five hours.
Across Dadar and Prabhadevi, the size of the flags kept growing. “Supporters are now showing their ‘true colours’, said taxi driver Santosh Parkar, who was driving Thursday afternoon only to wave the Sena flag.
In Parel and Sewri, where Sena won with huge margins, firecrackers echoed after 1 pm. At Mahadev Palav Marg in Currey Road (east), Sainiks claimed they had been ready with firecrackers since Tuesday night. “Even if the chief minister himself had contested from here, he would have lost,” said local Sena supporter Sunil Chavan.
Further down the road, near KEM Hospital, Sena candidate Sindhu Musurkar won by a margin of 4,991 votes. “Balasaheb once said that he didn’t need security as the entire Parel and Lalbaug was there to protect him. Sainiks look out for one another,” said Sewri resident Mukesh Koli, adding that he, like many, was hoping Sena would regain all of Dadar. “Dadar is our ‘gadh’ (stronghold), Sena Bhavan our ‘balkila’ (fortress). It was unfortunate that it was breached, but it is now only a matter of time before we gain total control of it again,” Koli said.
At Shivaji Park, it was just another day, with youngsters playing cricket, locals walking their dogs and passing vehicles not honking. Just a stone’s throw away at Sena Bhavan, the mood was frenzied. “Sena has not worked much in Shivaji Park, plus the MNS factor divided the Marathi votes. However, the Marathi voters proved their loyalty in large numbers,” said an elderly Sena supporter, who resides close to Raj Thackeray’s home.
Chavan echoed a similar sentiment regarding the large Marathi turnout. “The split with the BJP has given us freedom. We got nothing from the alliance in 25 years… now we can rule and show how to rule,” said a confident Chavan. Praful Gaikwad, a staunch Sena supporter, was unhappy at 11:30 am that the BJP had managed to win 42 seats, even as the Sena was nearing 90. Later in the day, with the BJP winning 82 seats, Gaikwad and many other supporters were angry.
“Sena votes are a clear indication of Maharastrians’ faith in it, but the BJP votes are from the suburbs, populated by non-Marathis. We were in our bubble of victory until it was burst by the latest data,” said Sanjay Dharampurkar, adding that Sena supporters had perhaps jumped the gun in celebrating. “The disappointment that we did not cross 100 after such a good start is palpable,” he said.