Community over class for the middle-class voter this October 15

  • Smruti Koppikar, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Oct 03, 2014 19:49 IST

In her upper middle class mega residential complex in Jogeshwari, cinematographer M Shanthi, 41, is in a minority: she is not yet a fan of Prime Minister Narendra Modi or his party unlike thousands of her co-residents. “He’s bombastic. He’s a marketer, not a messiah. But no one in my complex agrees,” she said.

Her neighbours, on the other hand, believe that the good times are rolling in though they can’t point out specifics. “With the BJP, one can hope for a better government,” said home-maker Sunanda K, in late 30s.

A few hundred metres away stands the poor cousin complex of the Slum Re-development Authority, tall buildings with hardly a metre of open space between them. This is Mumbai’s ubiquitous lower middle class. The Marathi manoos here is predictably inclined towards the Shiv Sena; the north Indians, Muslims and other communities are thinking Congress. “We moved out from the slums to these flats with lifts only because of the Congress. So why give it cuss words,” asked Vaishali Birje, 50, domestic help.

The middle class vote, always a difficult one to woo and win in an election, may be split along community lines in the forthcoming Assembly election. The many middle classes are showing multiple preferences. While sections of the lower middle class Maharashtrian appears inclined in favour of the Shiv Sena, other sections of it could back the BJP or even the Congress. The upper middle class, especially Gujaratis and Marwaris, not surprisingly, seem to support the BJP.

It’s another story that the local BJP unit in Jogeshwari, campaigning for a relatively unknown candidate Ujwala Modak, contesting against incumbent MLA Ravindra Waikar (Shiv Sena) has not yet figured out how to tap into the groundswell of pro-BJP sentiment. It may not need to. Those who come out to vote on October 15 are likely to vote for “development”, a euphemism for Modi. “The support I see is amazing,” said BJP’s Vinod Tawde, contesting from Borivli.

“It’s tough to convince the upper middle class that they have benefitted under the Congress-led government. See the range of infrastructure we provided,” said Suresh Shetty, MLA and former minister, seeking re-election. “People in housing complexes don’t usually come out in large numbers to vote but those who do seem to be have made up their minds already,” said a Congress candidate in an eastern suburb.

Incidentally, sections of the middle and upper middle class Mumbaiites were lusty supporters of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) till recently. The AAP is not contesting this Assembly election. “I can see that many of our voters and supporters are going the BJP way in this election. I hear them say: ‘Modi is doing ok work’. They are looking for an alternative to the Congress,” pointed Mayank Gandhi, AAP leader.

The driving force for any middle class segment – poor to lower middle or middle to upper middle – is aspiration. “This quality or dream or future goal is what drives the middle classes. It’s also something the BJP, specifically Modi, has successfully tapped into in the Lok Sabha election and is likely to repeat now,” pointed out B. Venkatesh Kumar, political analyst. “Some of that vote may get divided between the BJP and Sena,” he added.

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