The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) elections in the F-South ward on February 21 may be ripe for an upset.
In the run-up to the elections, the Lalbaug-Parel belt — a traditional stronghold of the Shiv Sena — has witnessed rebellions within the party ranks.
Days before the filing of nominations for the BMC elections began, Sanjay Ambole, a sitting Sena corporator from the area, switched over to the BJP. His wife is also contesting the elections on a BJP ticket.
Former mayor Shraddha Jadhav, the party’s official candidate from ward no. 202, had to fend off two rebels. In another case, Sena workers locked up the Sena shakha (office) at Hindmata, protesting against the official candidate of the party.
In such a scenario, will the Sena be able to retain its five corporators of the seven from the ward that it won in the 2012 elections ?
Another question is whether the Sena can be relevant in an area slowly transforming itself from a dominantly middle and lower middle class Marathi area to a cosmopolitan locality.
According to an analyst, the area faces identity crises, with many new skyscrapers and an influx of non-Maharashtrians in the area.
The new buildings include residential towers exclusively for Jains. Then there are the demands of people living in dilapidated structures in the belt, waiting for years for redevelopment.
Moreover, there has been a large-scale migration by Maharashtrians to far-flung suburbs, which according to a source, has only served to reduce their population in the traditional stronghold by 50 %.
The BJP, which started preparing for the BMC polls one year ago, roped in well-known businessman and NCP leader Prasad Lad, who was born and brought up in the locality, before moving to Matunga.
According to a source, Lad has invested money in the BJP’s cause and has also set up a party unit.
Lad had also served as the chairman of the Mumbai MHADA board.
“What has the Sena given to the people except for vada pav stalls? People want jobs and development and it is only the BJP which can do this,” said Lad. He said the defection of Ambole itself indicates the loosening of Sena’s hold in the area, from where it debuted in the Maharashtra assembly.