The convincing win in the Bandra (East) by-poll has not only proved the Shiv Sena’s grip over large parts of Mumbai, it has established Uddhav Thackeray’s leadership credentials within the party and with ally BJP.
After trouncing his arch rival Narayan Rane by 19,000 votes, the Uddhav who emerged on Matoshree’s balcony to acknowledge his supporters was a true Thackeray, waving to party workers like his father and party founder Bal Thackeray would often do.
The by-poll victory has given Uddhav a much-needed boost before the 2017 Mumbai municipal polls, as this shows his core support base is intact. After the 2014 assembly polls, where the Sena could only win 63 seats despite an aggressive anti-Modi campaign, many had questioned Uddhav’s leadership, and the Sena has since played second fiddle to the BJP in their ruling alliance.
However, the by-poll result shows the people of Konkan, traditionally Sena voters, and the families of government and mill workers settled in this constituency are putting their trust on Sena.
“This is the victory of the people and the work done by our late legislator Bala Sawant. This mandate has shown MIM leader Owaisi, who was trying to get votes on the basis of hate politics, what Muslim voters really want. It doesn’t matter who has lost but the fact that Sena has won shows we are a tiger and no one should dare mess with us,” Uddhav said after the results.
His party workers are giving full credit to his leadership skills. “The results only reiterate the organisational skills and leadership of Uddhavji. Throughout the elections, he kept sainiks together and focused. He also ensured a camaraderie with other parties that helped us get the BJP, RPI and Muslim votes,” said Neelam Gorhe, Shiv Sena spokesperson.
In a rare gesture, the BJP too has showered praises on Uddhav, which may be an indication that they realise they can’t afford to ignore the Sena, and may have to join hands for the BMC polls.
“Getting 50% of the votes polled is no small victory for Shiv Sena and this will surely impact the way Mumbai votes in the future. Uddhavji killed a giant and deserves all praise for it,” BJP spokesperson Madhav Bhandari said.
But experts say it is too soon to draw conclusions.
A result from a by-election where only 38% people voted and where there was a sympathy wave cannot be indicative of a trend. This was a battle of egos between two big leaders and Sena put all its might into winning a seat that was already theirs, and on their home ground. The BMC polls will be fought on different terms and the equations will be different,” said political analyst Surendra Jondhale.
Uddhav Thackeray clarifies stand on revoking Muslims’ right to vote
After Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut clarified their party was not advocating the disenfranchisement of Muslims, party chief Uddhav Thackeray stood by him.
He said Raut was only giving an answer to AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi, who had appealed to his voters to ‘finish’ Hindus. “We never said Muslims should be denied voting rights. We merely spoke of how Muslims are exploited by parties. If Muslims can’t vote, there will be no vote bank politics,” Uddhav said.
The Sena chief said he stood by his father late Bal Thackeray’s view that if Muslims did not vote, there would be no vote bank politics and the community would get the real picture of who was actually interested in their development.