From fielding turncoats to old guards of the party and handing out tickets to family members, the list of final candidates of major political parties on Friday showed that winnability was the main criteria for making the cut for the BMC elections.
The last day of filing nominations for the crucial Mumbai civic polls saw chaos, with the three main parties in the mix — BJP, Shiv Sena and Congress — unable to release their list of candidates until late evening, much after the deadline for nominations had ended. The last-minute scramble was to ensure that a rebellion within the party was stymied, but political adjustments and intrigue are likely to continue over the weekend, until the last date to withdraw candidature.
The three main parties gave merit, grassroots cadre and loyalty a miss and went with community arithmetic, money and mobilisation power while zeroing in on their candidates. All three went with a majority of Marathi candidates. The Sena led the pack by fielding nearly 85% or 190-odd candidates from the community. The BJP gave tickets to 120-odd Marathi candidates while Congress has fielded 111 Marathi faces.
Going with its strategy to pocket the city’s cosmopolitan vote, the BJP handed over nearly 72 or a little more than one-third of its seats to non-Marathi voters. This includes six tickets to Muslims and two to Christians. The Congress, which traditionally owns the non-Marathi votes in the city, kept 39 seats for Muslims and 57 seats for North Indians and Gujarati candidates.
All the parties got their old guard back into the high-stakes poll battle with the BJP getting former legislator Atul Shah to contest from ward number 220 in Mumbadevi, the Sena got several of its experienced hands back to the battle. For instance, the party decided to bring senior leaders Mangesh Satamkar and Ashish Chemburkar, both vibhag pramukhs who had moved on to contest Assembly elections for the party, back to the civic fray. Similarly, to reclaim its bastion of Dadar and Mahim, the party has given tickets to former mayors Vishakha Raut and Milind Vaidya. The expectation is that these names have recall value and experience of financing and running an election campaign.
The parties also fielded their newly inducted members from other parties, who were carefully wooed to make up for the party’s lack of strength in certain areas.
For instance, the BJP fielded former Sena corporator Nana Ambole’s wife Tejaswini from ward no 202 in Shivdi and former Sena legislator Suresh Gambhir’s daughter Sheetal Gambhir Desai from Mahim; both the areas where the party is weak.
Similarly, the Sena strategically gave a seat to Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) leader Prakash Patankar’s wife Seema to take on the Raj Thackeray-led party, which currently holds the seat. And the party fielded Mangal Bhanushali, the BJP’s Gujarati cell head from Ghatkopar’s ward number 131 to put up a tough fight in the BJP stronghold.
“The criteria for selection of candidates are simply whether the aspirant has any kind of weight or presence in his locality that will get traction in the ward over and above the party efforts. These elections can be won or lost with a few hundred votes. It’s not necessarily just caste or community based calculation. We have given a ticket to a local, Pankaj Yadav, who runs popular classes in western suburbs, an activist from Bandra besides co-opting a citizen corporator. Even when we have given tickets to family members of our party leaders, their individual merit has been considered,’’ said BJP legislator, Parag Alavani, also member of the selection committee of the party.
All parties indeed generously gave tickets to kin of party’s senior leaders, putting the onus of getting those seats on the respective leaders. For instance, BJP MP Kirit Somaiya’s son Neel, minister Vidya Thakur’s son Dipak and legislator Raj Purohit’s son Akash got tickets. There are instances of two from the same family, including husband-wife, getting tickets like in the case of former Congress corporator Kesarben Patel and her husband getting tickets and Sena corporator Dinesh Panchal and his wife getting tickets.
Similarly, Sena’s MLA Rahul Shewale’s wife, Kamini Shewale, was fielded from Chembur’s ward number 144, while his sister-in-law got a ticket from the neighbouring ward number 142. Dadar legislator Sada Sarvankar’s son, Samadhan, got the Sena’s candidature from ward number 194, while legislator Tukaram Kate’s daughter-in-law Samruddhi got candidature from Govandi’s ward number 146.
This has led to rebellion in the ranks across parties, but senior leaders say this kind of trouble is expected.