Across the high rises of Malabar hill to the Marathi chawls of Lalbaug, from the Marathi pocket of Dadar to the slums of Dindoshi, voters have defied all rules of traditional voting giving their mandate in favour of the BJP and Shiv Sena, indicating that they voted for change, and have hinged their hopes on the promise of development. And it was the BJP that emerged at the top by winning majority of seats in the cities including 15 out of 36 in Mumbai.
Crumbling infrastructure, inadequate affordable housing, unemployment and safety and security of women were some of the major issues of these urban pockets which the Congress-NCP have clearly not been able to address adequately, which reflected in the result.
Despite a five cornered contest, BJP-Sena swept over the 36 seats in Mumbai. While 15 were bagged by BJP and 14 by the Shiv Sena, Congress had a poor show of 5 seats down from 17 seats in 2009. NCP and MNS faced a wipe out with a no-show.
“People of Mumbai and its suburban cities are frustrated with the slow implementation of big ticket projects and lack of direction, which has reflected in the voting pattern. There is a clear message that Mumbai voters and those from similar urban pockets want to give out, is to either perform or perish.,” said Narinder Nayar, chairman of Bombay First, an initiative of private businesses working on the Mumbai makeover initiative.
The trend spilled over to suburbs neighbouring Mumbai which have 12 seats and face graver issues like commuting, illegal constructions, redevelopment issues, including Thane, Navi-Mumbai, Mira-Bhayander extending till Kalyan, where the BJP led in 5 seats, Sena in 4, while NCP won two seats.
Milind Ballal, political analyst and journalist from Thane points out that there is a new cosmopolitan crowd that is settling in these regions and the vote portrays their aspirations.
“BJP had no network here and they have made inroads in this election on the development plank. The people here are moving away from identity politics and want to see improved development which will begin with better commuting standards and infrastructure,” Ballal said.
Similar results showed up in several urban pockets like Pune, where BJP swept all the 8 seats bulldozing Sena in its bastions of Kothrud and Hadapsar, and Congress in its Pune Cantontment stronghold.
In Mumbai, Congress faced a major embarrassment in several traditional Congress seats like Colaba and Bandra that BJP snatched from the former. Similarly former Congress health minister and three-time legislator Suresh Shetty from Andheri east too had to lose to Ramesh Latke of the Sena, as did former Congress minister Kripa Shankar Singh who lost to Sena’s Sanjay Potnis. NCP heavyweights including former minister and sitting legislators Sachin Ahir from Worli and Nawab Malik from Anushakti Nagar, who had a good presence in their areas,lost to Sena candidates.
Another big loss for NCP was of former minister Ganesh Naik in his bastion of Navi Mumbai where he was defeated by NCP rebel Manda Mhatre who fought on a BJP seat. Earlier this year his son lost the Thane Lok Sabha seat to the Shiv Sena.
"I do agree that we fell short in understanding people's requirements. We will now get back to the drawing board to see where we made mistakes," said Mumbadevi legislator Amin Patel who was one of the 5 Congressmen who won the polls in Mumbai.
However, Sena also had to bear the brunt of the split of the 25-year old alliance with the BJP in certain traditional Marathi pockets, and ironically to its former ally.
Goregaon candidate and Sena heavyweight Subhash Desai faced the brunt of the split of the 25-year old alliance. He lost to BJP candidate Vidya Thakur.
A big embarrassment for Sena was to lose the Thane city seat, where Congress defector Ravi Pathak who was given a ticket was defeated by BJP’s Sanjay Kelkar.
In Pune too, Shiv Sena failed to retain two seats it had won in 2009 - Kothrud constituency and Hadapsar - where its renominated candidates and sitting legislators Chandrakant Mokate and Mahadeo Babar lost to their BJP rivals Medha Kulkarni and Yogesh Tilekar, respectively.
Meanwhile MNS which had won 6 seats in Mumbai and one in Kalyan in 2009, wresting several Marathi bastions from Shiv Sena did not even manage to get a single seat here.
“The results have shown that there is a plausible shift of voterbase in urban Maharashtra which has given a mandate to the BJP, and in some pockets the Shiv Sena. There is no space for identity politics anymore. This is the new voter who is aspirational and is voting for development politics. There is a clear pro-Modi sentiment where people want to give him a chance to make that change,” said political analyst B Venkatesh Kumar.
The urban voter is aspirational and is in a hurry to see a change, which means the BJP and Sena legislators will have to start putting their promises into action now.