As the megapolis of 19 million goes to poll, political strategists of mainstream parties will give an eye and more to get just a hint as to what direction the wind is blowing.
The Congress, which swept the 2004 Lok Sabha polls by winning five out of the six Mumbai seats, is as clueless as ally NCP, the Shiv Sena and the BJP about how the city will vote. Delimitation and changed demographics have edged out any guarantee in this electoral battle.
Aroon Tikekar, a veteran journalist, said: "There is a high degree of unpredictability in these polls. The uncertainty stems from challenge from the other parties like Maharashtra Navnirman Sena and Bahujan Samajwadi Party."
Surendra Jondhale, a political analyst, added that it was difficult to predict how different social segments across the city would vote in reaction to the same central issues such as security, infrastructure and the downturn.
For instance, in south Mumbai, mill workers' families will vote along with elite residents of Malabar Hill and Cuffe Parade, making it complicated for the two frontrunners: sitting Congress MP Milind Deora (32) and Shiv Sena MP Mohan Rawale (60). Independent candidate and banker Meera Sanyal, a self-described "daughter of south Mumbai," may also woo the affluent.
In the city's other five constituencies, a similar combination of factors has stumped political strategists. That is one of the reasons all political leaders have made it a point to ask voters not to "split votes."
But candidates such as Congress’ Sanjay Nirupam are unlikely to admit to any threat from
"smaller parties." He says local issues are central to these elections — local trains over national security and water washes aside economic policies. Music composer Vishal Dadlani also feels it is important to vote for local issues and candidates.