Last month, Union shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari announced a waterfront development project for Mumbai, even as Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray made a 3-D presentation on his vision for a coastal road to decongest the city. A few days before the poll date was announced, chief minister Prithviraj Chavan cleared the long-awaited cluster development policy for the city.
There is a reason why the Shiv Sena and the BJP are scrambling to catch the fancy of more than 1 crore voters across the 36 constituencies in Mumbai — the financial capital of the country. In 1995, the only time the Sena-BJP came to power in the state, it won 30 of the 34 seats in Mumbai, and if the 2014 Lok Sabha trends are anything to go by, the Sena-BJP is leading in 33 of the 36 seats in Mumbai Assembly constituencies.Mumbai has hardly followed the state’s voting pattern, especially with local parties such as the Shiv Sena in the fray.
In the 2009 Assembly polls, the Shiv Sena fared miserably in Mumbai because of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) effect, and lost its traditional bastions such as Parel, Sewri, Worli, Mahim, and Bhandup. It could win just four seats, while the BJP won five, ensuring the Congress-NCP returned to power.
MNS chief Raj Thackeray’s influence in the city and his popularity is now on the wane. Political experts feel he can’t damage the Sena-BJP’s prospects the way he did five years ago.
As winning 36 seats from the city, which account for one-fourth of the 144 seats which the Shiv-Sena and the BJP need to cross the halfway mark, is important to rule the state, the saffron combine is working overtime to wrest control over its bastions. Moreover, the city’s voting trend always has a cascading effect on regions in the MMR such as Thane, Navi Mumbai and even Konkan, which make up for 77 seats.
On the other hand, the Congress-NCP, too, is trying all methods. Chavan ensured all pending big-ticket projects like monorail, metro, eastern freeway and east-west connecting links were completed, as seamless commute is a big dream for citizens. Just ahead of the polls, the government took a decision on cluster revamp, which provided relief to thousands staying in dilapidated buildings.
But the Sena is confident of a comeback. “Our voters trust us and we will win all 36 seats,” said Jogeshwari legislator of Sena Ravindra Waikar.
Dismissing Waikar’s claims, Congress legislator Amin Patel said, “The election is based on local work and issues, people won’t fall for the Modi wave this time.”
The third factor, the MNS, meanwhile, is yet to reveal its cards. Party chief Raj Thackeray is expected to launch his campaign from September 25.
If he makes an impact on voters, Mumbai may have another story to tell.