While in the rest of the city, the Mumbai civic polls are a high-decibel fight between the Shiv Sena and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), for the Marathi-dominated Dadar-Mahim belt, it is a fight between the Thackerays – Sena chief Uddhav trying to win back control from his cousin Raj’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS).
Marathi-speaking population comprises 60% of the population in Dadar and Mahim, which falls under the G-north ward. The business community of Gujaratis, Jains and Marwaris contribute to 20% of the population, while the rest are Muslims, Christians and others.
The ward is considered prestigious by both the parties that were founded here. The Sena’s head office, Shiv Sena Bhavan, Raj’s residence and the head office of the MNS, Rajgad, are located here. At least four of the Sena mayors have been from this belt.
The Dadar-Mahim belt was traditionally a Shiv Sena fortress, till the emergence of the MNS. In the 2012 civic polls, the Sena was shocked, when almost all electoral wards in this area were won by the MNS, giving a boost to Raj in his fight against Uddhav. The Sena, however, recovered soon. In the 2014 Assembly elections, the Sena won the Mahim constituency.
Now, the Sena’s focus is on wresting the civic wards. To better its chances, the Sena has fielded two former mayors—Vishakha Raut (also a former legislator of the area) and Milind Vaidya. While the MNS is trying to woo voters on the basis of development work carried out by them in the past five years, the BJP is banking on a section of Marathi and Gujarati voters. It has also poached former Sena legislator Suresh Gambhir.
One of the keenly contested wards in the city will be ward no. 191 (Shivaji Park). In 2012, the MNS snatched this seat from the Sena, as its nominee Sandeep Deshpande shocked the Sena rank and file by winning this seat. This time, the ward has been reserved for women. Desphande’s wife Swapna who quit her government job to contest on MNS ticket is pitted against Sena’s Vishakha Raut. In a bid to woo affluent Maharashtrians here, the BJP has fielded Tejasvini Jadhav, a doctor.
Raut said, “It was not because the MNS did some great work that they won in 2012. Our laidback attitude cost us. Now all our workers are geared up and are working on ground. We are confident of winning back our bastion.”
Another important fight will be seen at ward no. 182, which covers Mahim Koliwada. The Sena has fielded former mayor Milind Vaidya to contest against MNS nominee Rajan Parkar. The BJP has fielded Vilas Ambekar who lost to Sena’s Sada Sarvankar during the 2014 Assembly polls.
Along with Marathi-speaking population, Muslims and Christians, too, form the vote bank of electoral ward no. 190, which has areas such as Navjivan society and Wanaj wadi. The ward is likely to witness a triangular fight between the Sena, MNS and BJP. The MNS has fielded Bharti Tandel, wife of sitting corporator Virendra Tandel, whereas the BJP has given a ticket to former MLA Gambhir’s daughter, Sheetal. Sena is banking on its local leader Rajesh Patankar’s wife Vaishali Patankar. Gambhir may make a dent in Sena votes here.
After local MNS leader Prakash Patankar returned to the Sena, his wife has been given a ticket to contest from ward no. 192, which includes Babasaheb Ambedkar Nagar. The MNS is counting on Snehal Jadhav, a two-time former Sena corporator and wife of MNS sitting corporator Sudhir Jadhav.
With just a week away from the polling day, except for Raj Thackeray’s three rallies in Mumbai, no strong campaigns have been carried out by the MNS across the city so far. The contenders, however, have started aggressive social media campaign, and have been flooding citizens with messages and videos on work done by the MNS in their ward. Even the Sena’s door-to door campaign has been getting good response from the citizens.
Sandeep Deshpande said, “We are reaching out to voters of all electoral wards in Mahim/Dadar Assembly by answering public queries through Facebook Live and sending Whatsapp videos on our work in the past five years. We are confident that people will vote for us.”