With more than 60 seats at stake, the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) – including Mumbai and parts of Thane and Raigad districts – will decide the fate of the parties in the fray to gain power in Maharashtra.
Political pundits say these elections may see the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), which made significant impact in the last elections, getting reduced to a non-entity.
In 2009 polls, the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) benefitted most, especially in Mumbai, because of splitting of votes by the MNS. However, experts believe that the Raj Thackeray-led party may not be able to repeat its performance this times after its arch rival, the Shiv Sena, emerged as a leader, followed closely by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in most of the city’s Assembly seats during the Lok Sabha elections.
Going by the trends of this year’s Lok Sabha polls, the Congress combine is expected to take a major beating as well. The Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) were trailing behind in 18 of the 20 Assembly constituencies they had won in the 2009 elections.
Congress led in minority-dominated constituencies of Byculla, Mumbadevi and Mankhurd (held by SP), while the NCP lost lead in all three sitting segments. The Sena and BJP are expected to do much better. The Sena retained lead in four seats and scored 13 segments held by other political parties. The BJP, apart from leading in five sitting seats, got ahead in 11 others as well.
In Thane, the Sena-BJP combine lead in all seats except Mumbra/Kalwa.
Political commentator Surendra Jondhale said the MNS mania will not work this time and the fights will mostly be between the Congress-NCP and BJP-Sena. “The MNS has delayed in making its policy public. Most importantly, their leader [Raj] backtracked from leading from the front. After assuring that he would contest the polls, he rejected the idea, leaving his cadre frustrated,” said Jondhale.
In the last assembly polls, of the 13 seats it won, which were reduced to 12, MNS had six seats in Mumbai, two in Thane district (now bifurcated into two districts) and the remaining in Nashik, Pune and Aurangabad districts.
With 4.5% seats of the total 288 made the MNS the fourth largest party in state Assembly after Congress-NCP (144 seats), BJP-Shiv-Sena (90 seats) and the Third Front (14 seats).
A BJP insider said the issues of migrants against sons of the soil may not work this time. “People have voted for a change that PM Narendra Modi envisaged,” he said.
A senior Congress leader said a lot would revolve around the candidates and the multi-cornered fights. “Unlike other areas where castes and religions get prominence, ethnic groups in the city impact the poll results in a significant manner.”