It will be an all-new Mumbai that goes to the polls on October 13. For one thing, the suburbs finally have more seats — up from 17 in the last election to 26 in this.
And the island city finally has less — modified on the basis of the latest census figures, to reflect the massive influx of people from exorbitant South Mumbai to the more affordable suburbs and neighbouring districts like Thane and Navi Mumbai.
Perhaps as significant, the redefined constituencies now include areas where migrants and minorities are more dominant, and the melting pot effect is expected to send a multi-hued bunch of legislators to the state Assembly.
The redrawn battle lines also spell trouble for the Shiv Sena, which has lost some of its traditional strongholds as constituencies were merged.
That’s not all. The nature of the constituencies that remain has changed too.
Take Lower Parel and Lalbaug. This former mill district, the heart of the saffron votebank, is now crawling with malls and fancy apartment blocks where yuppie couples in plush apartments are chasing the New India dream.
Most of these yuppie couples aren’t Marathis. Many are ‘outsiders’ who are either indifferent to the Sena and it’s election planks, or resent the party for suggesting that they return to their home states.
The upside for the Sena is that the yuppies tend to not show up on election day, but even so, very little remains of the mill worker community and the lower middle classes that frequented the non-AC Marathi cinemas and always voted saffron.
And, of course, those that remain are now being wooed — fairly successfully — by the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, the fledgling party founded by the other Thackeray, Bal Thackeray’s nephew Raj.
If the recent Lok Sabha elections are any indication, the Congress is likely to gain from the new election map, its secular image appealing across the new demographics, especially in the new seats dominated by north Indian migrants.
In saffron and Marathi pockets, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena fared better than the Sena in the general election. And the BJP stands to gain from new Gujarati-dominated seats.
With the memory of its last poll debacle still fresh — the Sena did not win a single of the metro’s six Parliamentary seats — the party will have to step up its game considerably if it is to save face this time.