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Raj Thackeray finds support in Mumbai’s Muslims

Raj Thackeray-led MNS have ruffled many feathers with its anti-North Indian campaign, but has found support in Mumbai's Muslim community.

By: Agencies | Mumbai |
November 18, 2008 4:42:16 pm

Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) may have ruffled many feathers with its anti-North Indian campaign, but has found support in Mumbai’s Muslim community.

The growing support for the party in the megapolis’s Muslim-dominated areas like Umerkhadi and Dongri, is sure to give the ruling Congress-NCP a hard time during elections. The Muslim-dominated areas saw a lower voter turnout during last year’s civic body elections.

More than 2000 Muslims have enrolled as party activists in the last 3-4 months, said MNS Vibhag Pramukh (unit leader), Virendra Patil, of the newly formed Mumbadevi assembly constituency after delimitation.

Mumbadevi comprises areas like Dongri, Umerkhadi and Bhendi Bazar with over 70 per cent of the population being Muslim.

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Disillusioned with the Congress, NCP and SP, Muslims are finding MNS as an alternative, Patil said. “Besides, our activists help locals in every possible way by organising cleanliness drives among other things,” he said.

“Of the 65 per cent of Muslims in Umerkhadi, a majority of them hail from Konkan. They support Raj Thackeray’s stand that priority should be given to locals in jobs,” he added.

Patil said he was a candidate in Municipal Ward Number 221 (Umerkhadi) in last year’s election and finished second. “We have the grass-root support and hope to do very well in the forthcoming elections,” he added. In municipal elections, MNS bagged 7300 votes in six wards of Mumbadevi assembly segment, he said.

“Our votes will increase three times in the next Lok Sabha and assembly polls,” he said. Zakir Habia, MNS Shakha (divisional) President of Ward Number 220, said the party was not communal.

“Rajsaheb says locals should be given priority in Maharashtra. If the burgeoning migrant population does not stop, locals will have no alternative but to go around with a begging bowl,” Habia, a scrap dealer, said.

Zakir said north Indian activists of MNS feel that unchecked migration was causing trouble to locals. “All we want is that the flow of migrants to the state should stop so that locals living here since long, irrespective of their native language, can survive,” he said. “Why can’t UP and Bihar provide job opportunities to its people,” Zakir asked.

He said Muslims are happy with MNS because its cadre helps them to solve their local problems and civic issues. Sharif Deshmukh, Deputy Vibhag Pramukh of Mumbadevi assembly constituency said MNS had enrolled over 400 women activists in the last few months.

“Educated Muslims from Konkan and Gujarat who have been living in the state for many generations and are involved in small businesses agree that they face trouble due to the continuous onslaught of migrants,” Deshmukh said adding that UP Muslims living here for several years also say that migration needs to stop.

“Even women are supporting us because we help their children get enrolled in schools,” he said adding that there are more than 20,000 Muslim activists of the MNS all over Mumbai.

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