A significant number of Bandra (West) residents provide an exception to the popular belief that Muslims do not vote for the Shiv Sena.
About 800 Muslims living in the Maharashtra Nagar-I slums near Bandra station are staunch supporters of the Sena, and say they have been voting for the party for the past 19 years.
These Muslims see the Sena as their saviour, saying that the party saved their slums from being demolished in 1995, winning their loyalty in the process. Every election, Sena gets votes from residents of about 450 shanties, irrespective of the other candidates in the fray, say locals.
Locals say they constructed the shanties in 1982, which the civic body later tried to demolish. But the Sena intervened and stopped them from being razed, said Anish Shaikh, a resident. “We were Congress supporters earlier, but the party did not come to our rescue. We even met a former Congress minister, who was Muslim, but he didn’t help either. So we finally met Balasaheb Thackeray, who stopped the demolition. Since then we have become Sena supporters,” said Shaikh.
Firdos Siddiqi, a 40-year-old housewife, said she never felt that Sena was communal. “In the past 20 years, Sena has been friendlier than any other party. In difficulty, we approach only Sena leaders,” she said.
Significantly, other residents in other Muslim pockets in Maharashtra Nagar-I are Congress supporters.
MLC and Sena leader Anil Parab, in charge of Assembly elections for western Mumbai, said, “Muslims in Maharashtra Nagar are our traditional voters, who will vote for us even if we don’t campaign in the area. They trust us.”
In the Shiv Sena shakha in the area, most office bearers are Muslims. “Shiv Sena not just saved our homes but provided necessary facilities as well. Other parties have asked us to vote for them, but we are Sena supporters,” said deputy shakha pramukh Anwar Shaikh.