WHILE THE Congress-NCP alliance put up a tough fight in the rural belts, it failed to bridge the gap in the urban areas.
In the Mumbai Metropolitan Region alone, the Congress-NCP won just eight of the 60 seats, while the BJP-Sena won most of the remaining seats. The Congress ceded some ground in the commercial capital, winning just four of the 29 seats it had contested — it had won five seats in 2014.
And the NCP, despite its impressive performance elsewhere, won only one seat in Mumbai — it had won none in 2014.
Maharashtra Congress president Vijay (Balasaheb) Thorat admitted that the “verdict would have been different if the Congress-NCP had wrested some more seats in Mumbai and other urban belts.”
The Congress is grappling with infighting and factionalism in the Mumbai region. With the Shiv Sena claiming a bulk of the Maratha vote, and the BJP managing to win over the North Indian vote, the Congress’s support base in the city has shrunk considerably.
Of the four seats which the Congress won in Mumbai, three — Mumbadevi, Malad, and Bandra (East) — have a strong minority presence, and the fourth, Dharavi, is a Dalit-dominated pocket.
Former Mumbai Congress president Sanjay Nirupam, who stayed away from the party’s poll campaign, blamed “poor ticket distribution” for its poor show. “We would have won four or five more seats if that had been done effectively,” he said.
Saying that the party must introspect its downslide in Mumbai, he said “a frequent change of guard at the helm” had also impacted the party’s functioning. “The party needs to give the person it appoints as its face in Mumbai a good run. He should get more organisational freedom,” he said.
During the campaign, Nirupam had publicly spoken out against the party after his recommendation regarding the candidate for a seat in Mumbai North West parliamentary segment was shot down.
Saying that the Congress needs to refine its ideological position on certain issues, Nirupam said the party should stop giving weightage to those who believe in backroom politics and opt for those who are willing to “fight it out” instead. He also called for an organisational overhaul to establish a better connect with voters.
The NCP, on the other hand, has never been a force to reckon with in Mumbai. The party has never won more than 10% of the votes in Mumbai ever since its formation in 1999. In Thane and Navi Mumbai, the BJP’s expansion has come at the NCP’s cost.