South Mumbai is the face of India’s commerce, sporting Bombay Stock Exchange and the headquarters of major corporate houses. But the faces that matter in the Lok Sabha constituency now are those of incumbent Congress MP Milind Deora and his challenger Meera Sanyal, former chairperson of the Royal Bank of Scotland and an Aam Aadmi Party nominee.
So do those of the earthier Arvind Sawant of Shiv Sena and Bala Nandgaonkar of Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, keen on dislodging Deora and get the better of each other too.
Rivals Deora and Sanyal have often been on the same side of the table. Deora’s father and Congress veteran Murli Deora was known for his ties with the city’s business and corporate world. Sanyal was part of this world as a high-profile banker before quitting to pursue politics. Both are targeting the young, educated and upper middle-class elite voters that hold the key to the constituency.
The Deoras have made South Mumbai a Congress bastion since 1984, losing it to BJP veteran Jaywantiben Mehta twice in 1996 and 1999. History gives Deora, who became the youngest MP in 2004, a chance to score a hat-trick of wins. But Sanyal hopes AAP’s agenda of clean governance would tip the scales in her favour; she had lost her maiden fight as an independent in 2009.
But the soft-spoken Sanyal might not be Deora’s biggest headache. Shiv Sena-BJP nominee Sawant is hoping the ‘Narendra Modi wave’ will sway the constituency’s 43% Marathi-speaking besides 28% Gujaratis and Rajasthanis who make up the trader class.
More than Congress, it is wary of MNS that had played spoilsport in 2009.
The MNS might not be the force it was last time, but it is banking on the popularity of its candidate Nandgaonkar, an MLA from Shivadi who had contested the 2009 polls and finished second behind Deora.
Deora’s 2009 victory was attributed to the MNS-Shiv Sena war that divided the Marathi vote besides the loyalty of 18% Muslim voters. With MNS and Sena still at loggerheads, he appears to have an edge over his rivals.
South Mumbai has traditionally seen a poor voter turnout – 39% in 2009. It is something the candidates hope will change in his or her favour.