Updated: May 12, 2022 7:58:07 am
Seeking to dislodge former ally Shiv Sena from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), the BJP is stepping up its outreach to North Indians based in the city. Starting from Goregaon on May 15, the party will be holding corner meetings and public rallies in pockets across Mumbai where north Indians are based.
This is the first BMC election being fought by the BJP after the Sena parted ways as an ally. The partnership so far restrained the BJP from reaching out to what would have been its natural vote bank in the city, given that Marathi Manoos or son-of-the-soil agenda is intrinsic to the Sena’s politics.
Comprising around 40 lakh of Mumbai’s estimated 1.5 crore population, North Indians play a decisive role in its politics. They are employed across the board in the financial capital, from service sectors, to jobs requiring manual labour. Of the 227 wards in BMC, North Indians are believed to be in a majority in 50, and have a significant presence in 40-45 wards more.
Politically, the group has always aligned with pan-Indian parties, namely the Congress and BJP. With the Congress fast losing claim to that tag, the BJP sees a chance to take control of the country’s richest civic body, with an annual budget of Rs 40,000 crore.
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Maharashtra BJP Uttar Bharatiya Marcha president Sanjay Pandey told The Indian Express: “The North Indians are inclined towards the BJP as they firmly believe this is one party which enforces welfare schemes without prejudices of state, caste or religion.”
The in-charge of the Morcha is senior leader Kripashankar Singh, who joined the BJP from the Congress in 2019 and whose family has roots in Uttar Pradesh.
Pandey cites Devendra Fadnavis’s tenure as Chief Minister between 2014 and 2019, claiming “the North Indians were never subjected to any harassment or ill-treatment under his government”. Fadnavis will be launching the start of the BMC campaign with the rally on May 15. “One call from Fadnavis during Covid saw hundreds of party activists offer their services to people in Mumbai,” he says, adding BJP teams were active 24X7 in North Indian localities.
In contrast, Pandey adds, “Look how miserably the Uddhav Thackeray-led government failed to provide basics like food and shelter to North Indian migrant workers during the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown. Almost 20 to 22 lakh people left Mumbai for their homes in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.”
Both the continuing popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the resurgence of Yogi Adityanath after his return to power will further swing the North Indian vote in these states towards the BJP, the party feels.
With its network among North Indians in Mumbai and its suburbs, Kripashankar Singh will also come in handy, the BJP believes. Singh, who insists he left the Congress for the BJP “driven by nationalism”, following the abrogation of Article 370, says: “I am an obedient worker. I will do whatever task the BJP assigns me, to the best of my ability.”
The Shiv Sena too has been trying to recast its image among the North Indians, unlike its campaigns targeting them as late as 2017. Both Sena president and Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and his son and Cabinet Minister Aditya routinely reach out to them. Aditya Thackeray’s visit to Ayodhya on June 10 is part of the same agenda.
The other aspirant to Bal Thackeray’s Marathi Manoos legacy, MNS chief Raj Thackeray, has also jettisoned this theme for a more broad-ranging one of Hindutva.
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