Congress-NCP insiders say the party will put up a strong show in Mumbai South and Mumbai North East.
The underlining feature of the Congress-NCP’s campaign in the city has been its reliance on MNS chief Raj Thackeray to swing Marathi voters in their favour. The six seats of Mumbai will be a test of the success or otherwise of Raj Thackeray’s blistering anti-BJP campaign.
The emergence of Raj Thackeray as the opposition alliance’s most important campaigner was underlined on the last day of campaigning when Mumbai BJP chief Ashish Shelar chose to concentrate his attack on the MNS chief rather than the Congress-NCP.
The Congress-NCP owes its past success in the city to the MNS. Raj Thackeray’s men had contested all six Lok Sabha seats in the 2009 elections polling over one lakh votes each and hurting the Shiv Sena-BJP candidates’ prospects, who lost by a margin of between 3,000 and 50,000 votes. The Congress-NCP had then managed to win all six seats in the city. Click here for more election news
In 2014, the MNS had only contested three seats and put up candidates against the Sena. Between them, the MNS candidates had polled only over two lakh votes with the saffron combine sweeping the polls, winning most seats with big margins.
In Mumbai North West, which has the largest number of voters in the city and where former Mumbai Congress president Sanjay Nirupam is contesting against sitting Shiv Sena MP Gajanan Kirtikar, the Congress is hoping disgruntled Marathi votes will swing to its kitty, on the back of Raj Thackeray’s say-so, even though he did not campaign in this constituency.
The Congress, meanwhile, is also betting on itself to put up a good performance in Mumbai South where Milind Deora takes on sitting Sena MP Arvind Sawant. The Congress believes the endorsement of Deora by Reliance head Mukesh Ambani has raised the party’s prospects.
The NCP too feels that its candidate from Mumbai North East Sanjay Dina Patil will give BJP candidate Manoj Kotak a run for his money. Kotak replaced sitting MP Kirit Somaiyya, who faced resistance from supporters as well as the local Shiv Sena cadre.
In Mumbai North Central, sitting MP Poonam Mahajan will take on former MP Priya Dutt. While Dutt has managed to draw crowds after her brother Sanjay Dutt campaigned for her, there has been no massive groundswell of support in her favour.
In Mumbai South Central, Shiv Sena’s Rahul Shewale has an edge over Congress’s Eknath Gaikwad.
Meanwhile, in the BJP bastion of Mumbai North, Congress candidate Urmila Matondkar put up the most spirited campaign in the city against sitting BJP MP Gopal Shetty.
The six Lok Sabha constituencies, spread over Mumbai’s 437.71 sq km, range from the affluence of South Mumbai, which competes with the world’s top cities on real estate pricing, and the down and out Mumbai North East, where the city’s poorest live.
In 2004, voters backed the Congress-NCP alliance with the Congress winning five seats and the Shiv Sena one. In 2009, the Congress-NCP made a clean sweep of the six seats with the Congress winning five and the NCP one. That was reversed in 2014, when the BJP-Shiv Sena won three seats each.