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Monday, June 25, 2018

Mumbai’s electoral geography: Two shades of saffron, several of uncertainty

BJP, Sena go all out to woo each other’s traditional vote bases, declining clout of MNS, entry of AIMIM open up new possibilities

Written by Sandeep Ashar | Mumbai | Published: February 11, 2017 2:33:18 am
Supporters wear CM Devendra Fadnavis masks at his Girgaum rally on Friday. Pradip Das Supporters wear CM Devendra Fadnavis masks at his Girgaum rally on Friday. Pradip Das

Barely 10 days left for the polls, Mumbai is charged, with parties and contestants doing all to woo voters. While common elements define the commercial city’s electoral landscape, there are local variations in each of the city’s six parliamentary segments. As the poll fever heats up, here is a look at the city’s political geography.

Mumbai North
Uddhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sena is hoping to grab more seats in the region this time around. In the 2012 polls, the Sena had managed 18 seats here, but had faced some losses in Marathi-dominated pockets in Magathane, Charkop and Malad due to a split of Marathi votes with Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena. The MNS had won four seats in the belt, while denting the Sena’s prospects in some others.

In 2017, the support to Raj Thackeray’s party has declined considerably. Three sitting corporators — Chetan Kadam (MNS), Sandhya Doshi (NCP) and Riddhi Khursange (NCP) — who had benefitted from the split of Marathi votes have now joined the Sena. Following delimitation, additional seats or wards have been added to this region.

Mumbai North comprises mostly middle- and upper-middle class population. There is a sizeable Gujarati, Marwari, and North Indian population. In 2012, when the BJP and the Shiv Sena had a pre-poll pact, the BJP won 15 out of its 31 seats from this region. The party remains popular in Gujarati-dominated pockets in Borivli, Kandivli, and Malad. In the 2014 assembly polls, the BJP had even managed to breach Dahisar, a Shiv Sena bastion. In some of the wards in Borivli and Dahisar, the Gujarati voter population nearly equals the Marathi-speaking population. The BJP has been wooing the Marathi pockets aggressively here to upset the Sena. The Shiv Sena has plans for a roadshow involving Patel reservation stir leader Hardik Patel to reach out to the Gujarati voter.

The Congress is banking heavily on electoral gains in seats with sizeable minority population in Malad and the North Indian community pockets in Charkop and Dahisar.

Mumbai North West
In the 2014 assembly polls, the Shiv Sena and the BJP, contesting separately, shared the spoils in this belt with each winning three assembly segments. In the 2012 civic polls, when the parties were fighting as an alliance, the Shiv Sena had managed a virtual sweep in the Marathi-speaking belts in Dindoshi, Jogeshwari East and Goregaon.

Mumbai North West voter demographic comprises a majority of the slum voter. While the Marathi-speaking population resides in the largest numbers, there is a strong North Indian and Muslim population in Andheri West. The Congress picked up 10 seats in this region the last time. But the party’s poll preparation here has been hit adversely by infighting. Former Leader of Opposition in the BMC Devendra Amberkar — who represents the Lokhandwala belt — even jumped ship at the last minute and is now a Shiv Sena candidate.

With 52% of the population in this region living in slum settlements, all parties have been wooing them aggressively. The BJP is hoping that the gains it made during the assembly polls will help increase its footprint in the region. The party had won just three seats the last time.

Mumbai North Central
This is the suburban belt where the rich and the famous coexist with the poorest of the poor. There are affluent pockets in Bandra West, Santacruz, and Juhu where top Bollywood personalities and business magnates reside. But sharing space in the same ward are big slum settlements on the eastern side of the railway station. The belt with the highest population of Muslim and Christian voters have also been a fertile ground for communal polarisation.

In 2012 civic polls, the Congress had rode on the back of the minority support to win the most number of seats in the region, followed by the Shiv Sena. But in 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP’s Poonam Mahajan beat Congress’s Priya Dutt in this traditional Congress bastion to script a famous win. The party’s declining support also saw it lose all but one of the six assembly segments to the Shiv Sena (3) and BJP (2) later that year.

This time, Asaduddin Owaisi’s All India Majis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) is eyeing this region to make inroads into the minority voter segments. The Congress is wary of the AIMIM factor, conceded insiders.

While MNS had picked up three seats in the region the last time, the Shiv Sena is now expecting to make gains in these wards. BJP’s Mumbai chief Ashish Shelar represents the region in the assembly. The party is banking on him and MP Poonam Mahajan to deliver results here. In the run-up to the polls, sitting Congress corporator Kesarben Patel (Bandra West) has joined the BJP. The BJP has given both Patel and her husband Mulji tickets from adjoining wards.

Mumbai North East
This region — now represented by the BJP in the Parliament — had in 2012 seen the MNS, the Samajwadi Party, and the Nationalist Congress Party pick up almost 20 seats among themselves. In fact, the MNS had even emerged as the party with the highest number of seats from this belt. Prakash Ambedkar’s Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh also picked up a seat in Deonar the last time.

While the MNS had notched up impressive wins in Bhandup and Vikhroli pockets, the Samajwadi Party gained in the Muslim-dominated pockets in Mankhurd, Shivaji Nagar, tapping into the negative sentiment against the Congress and the NCP, which were ruling the state then. Abu Asim Azmi, the sole SP legislator, was later elected to the assembly from the Mankhurd-Shivaji nagar segment. Out of the five remaining assembly segments, the Shiv Sena won two, while the BJP wrested three.

The Shiv Sena camp feels it can pick up more seats from the region with the MNS’s clout declining. The BJP, on the other hand, is eyeing gains in the Mulund-Ghatkopar belt where the Gujarati population is decisive on several seats. Both serving MLAs from Ghatkopar belong to the party. The NCP too has set eyes on this region to improve its strike rate in the polls. The AIMIM, too, has been campaigning aggressively, especially in the Mankhurd-Shivaji Nagar belt.

Mumbai North East is dominated by the slum voter. Minorities make up about 20 per cent of the population. The backward classes, too, have a considerable presence. The affluent Gujarati-dominated upper class voter is mainly found in developed pockets in Mulund, Ghatkopar, and Powai.

Mumbai South Central
This is the belt with the city’s largest Dalit population. About 25 per cent of the voters from this region hail from backward communities. The constituency is home to one of largest slum colonies across the globe — Dharavi — which has been a traditional Congress stronghold. In the 2012 civic polls, the MNS had dented the Shiv Sena in the Mahim assembly segment, winning several seats in the region. While the Shiv Sena retained most seats in the Marathi-speaking heartland of Parel, Lower Parel and Currey Road, the BJP is running an aggressive campaign in these belts to woo the Marathi vote. Mumbai South Central is mainly the middle- and lower-middle class Marathi speaking working class population.

On Friday, the Congress signalled its goal of enhancing its footprint in the Dharavi-Wadala belt by holding a mega rally in the region. When the Shiv Sena and the BJP would fight together, most of the favourable seats in this belt would go to the Shiv Sena. The BJP, which does not have a strong cadre presence in the region, is banking on turncoats and an aggressive campaign to make dents. In the build-up to the elections, the party has poached two sitting corporators and a former standing committee chairman (all formerly Shiv Sena) from this region.

Mumbai South

The rich-poor divide is the most stark in this belt. Among the richest in the city have their residence in the Colaba, Nariman Point and Malabar Hill assembly pockets. The Byculla ward mainly comprises tenanted buildings with a sizeable Muslim population. The Worli and Sewri assembly segments are part of the Marathi heartland.

In the 2012 civic polls, the Congress, which has traditionally represented the region in Parliament, had picked up most seats, followed by the Shiv Sena. Arun Gawli’s Akhil Bharatiya Sena had won two seats near his Dagdi chawl fortress in Byculla.

A declining support has seen Congress suffer electoral reversals in the region. It managed to win just one of the six seats in the region. The Malabar Hill and the Mumbadevi areas have traditionally remained loyal to the BJP, while Worli and Sewri are strong Shiv Sena pockets. Rumblings within the local BJP leaders have hit the party’s poll preparations in this region.

The Byculla assembly segment, which the AIMIM represents in the assembly, is expected to see a keen tussle between the Congress and the AIMIM for the Muslim vote. The Congress camp remains jittery about the AIMIM factor.

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