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HindustanTimes Thu,31 Jul 2014

From big fights to controversies: six things to know about Mumbai polls

HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times  Mumbai, April 23, 2014
First Published: 22:22 IST(23/4/2014) | Last Updated: 16:11 IST(24/4/2014)

Star candidates, high-profile politicians, two estranged cousins, a confident newcomer, raging controversies and a close contest — the 2014 Lok Sabha elections in Mumbai have all the elements for an action-packed thriller.

With the commercial capital of India going to polls on Thursday, HT takes you through a short tour of what's cooking in Mumbai.
 
The constituencies

The ruling Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) alliance had put up a spectacular show in 2009, bagging all six seats in Mumbai. While five seats went to the Congress, the NCP had won one.

This time, riding on a projected 'Modi wave', the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-Shiv Sena alliance is hopeful of turning the tables on the Congress.

The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, however, could spoil the BJP's party by eating into the anti-Congress votes.

1) Mumbai North

Frontrunners: Congress' Sanjay Nirupam (sitting MP) and BJP's Gopal Shetty

On the ground: The Congress took over Mumbai North, once a BJP stronghold, in 2004. The mix of Gujarati and Marathi voters will deliver the verdict this year even as the BJP seems confident in the absence of the MNS in the fray. Amid the 'Modi for PM chorus', the Gujarati votes may go the BJP way. Although on shaky ground, the Congress is also optimistic. 
Key issues:  Demand for a new hospital, inadequate number of rail overbridges and traffic jams, redevelopment of dilapidated buildings and protection of mangroves from the land mafia.

2) Mumbai North East

Frontrunners: NCP's Sanjay Dina Patil, BJP's Kirit Somaiya and AAP's Medha Patkar

On the ground: This segment comprises voters from all sections — the upper and middle classes, the working class and slum dwellers. MNS chief Raj Thackeray's decision to not field a candidate may work in favour of Somaiya, who lost to Patil in 2009. The constituency has a large Maharashtrian population and three of the six assembly seats here are with the MNS.

Key issues:  Slum redevelopment, traffic congestion, rail-based transportation, pollution and man-animal conflict (as it is located near a national park)

3) Mumbai North Central

Frontrunners: Congress' Priya Dutt and BJP's Poonam Mahajan

On the ground: From posh residences to commercial complexes and slums, this constituency underlines Mumbai's contrasting landscape. Sitting MP Dutt's popularity in the constituency faces a challenge from slum dwellers irked over ration and demolition drives, and the MNS's absence. She is pitted against late Pramod Mahajan's daughter, Poonam

Key issues:  Slum rehabilitation, poor connectivity, congestion near railway stations and civic amenities

4) Mumbai North West

Frontrunners: Congress' Gurudas Kamat, Shiv Sena's Gajanan Kirtikar, MNS's Mahesh Manjrekar and AAP's Mayank Gandhi

On the ground: A commercial and residential hub, the constituency comprises the bustling areas of Andheri and Goregaon, among others. The Mumbai's Metro's first phase is likely to start here soon. Five-time MP Kamat hopes to repeat his 2009 feat in this Congress bastion. However, he faces a stiff challenge from the Shiv Sena, MNS and the AAP. Actor Rakhi Sawant is also in the fray.

Key issues:  Slum rehabilitation, public transport and infrastructure, traffic congestion and environment

5) Mumbai South

Frontrunners: Congress' Milind Deora, MNS's Bala Nandgaonkar, Shiv Sena's Arvind Sawant and AAP's Meera Sanyal

On the ground: Represented by Union minister Deora, this seat is diverse mix of socio-economic segments — from high-rises to chawls and mandis. Deora is battling anti-incumbency in this Congress stronghold where four of the six seats are with the party.

Key issues:  Redevelopment of old buildings, lack of big-ticket transport projects, local body tax and security

6) Mumbai South Central

Frontrunners: Congress' Eknath Gaikwad, Shiv Sena's Rahul Ramesh Shewale and MNS's Aditya Shirodkar

On the ground: Sitting Congress MP Eknath Gaikwad has represented Mumbai south-central constituency since 2004. A three-time MLA from Dharavi, who has served as state minister, he has not fulfilled most of the promises he made to voters in 2009, and most significantly the completion of the Dharavi redevelopment project

Key issues:  Dharavi redevelopment project and reconstruction of old buildings
 
Cousins at war

MNS chief Raj Thackeray has launched a fresh offensive against cousin and Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray. He has even claimed that the BJP wanted the MNS in the NDA, but Uddhav opposed it. Three constituencies in Mumbai will see MNS and Shiv Sena nominees taking on each other
 
Performance of MPs

Association for Democratic Reforms and Daksh recently interviewed 500 people in each of the 48 constituencies of the state. According to the study, the six city MPs are 'below average'. While North West MP Gurudas Kamat was the best (ranked 17 among 48 MPs), North Central MP Priya Dutt was the worst performer (ranked 48).
 
Star power

Ahead of the polling, the BJP had released an appeal signed by 15 film personalities endorsing its prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi. The Modi supporters from Bollywood include actors Vivek Oberoi, Manoj Joshi, actor-singer Durga Jasraj and writer-director Vivek Agnihotri.
 
Low turnout

Around 12% of the state's voters are from Mumbai. In 2009, the city recorded a polling percentage of 43.52%. This year, the 29 seats where voting has already been held have seen a 10 percentage point rise in turnout.
 
Pre-poll controversies
 
 
Shazia Ilmi video

Aam Aadmi Party leader Shazia Ilmi was purportedly seen in a video saying "Muslims ought to be communal this time". The 1.19-minute video clip, apparently a sting operation, is believed to have beenshot in Mumbai, where she had gone for campaigning for AAP's South Mumbai candidate Meera Sanyal.

The Mascarenhas note

In an advisory sent to students, Father Frazer Mascarenhas (the principal of St Xavier's College) recently criticised Modi's 'Gujarat model' of development. The note also praised the flagship schemes of the Congress-led UPA.

Kadam's alleged hate speech

An FIR has been registered against Shiv Sena leader Ramdas Kadam for allegedly giving an inflammatory speech during a recent political rally. Kadam had allegedly made "anti-Muslim" remarks.


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