All eyes on north Indian voters by ruling, oppn alliances | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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All eyes on north Indian voters by ruling, oppn alliances

Apr 12, 2024 01:45 PM IST

In Mumbai, north Indian Hindus and Muslims are a crucial vote bank being wooed by both ruling and opposition alliances through various measures.

MUMBAI: Close on heels of Marathi-speaking voters are north Indian Hindus who form the second largest community of voters numbering over 20 lakh. On the other hand, most of the 18 lakh Muslim voters in the city are also from north India. Together, as they are considered a decisive vote bank, both opposition and ruling alliances have been attempting various measures to woo this section by holding rallies led by prominent leaders from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Programmes have been organised for them and dedicated workers deputed in various pockets.

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BJP’s moves

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Historically, this section was a strong voter base for Congress, until the emergence of the Modi era. Post-2014, the vote share of Hindu north Indians shifted to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) persuaded by the party’s strong Hindutva agenda. Over the last decade BJP has made systematic inroads into the community and managed to deepen its roots.

Most leading north Indian leaders from Mumbai, such as Kripashankar Singh and Rajhans Singh, switched sides in this span, which strengthened the party’s equity among this community, as it set about celebrating festivals like chat puja with much fanfare.

“The party ensured that hawkers in Mumbai – mostly north Indians – get the benefit of PM Svanidhi, a special micro-credit facility launched by the ministry of housing and urban affairs during the pandemic, to provide affordable loans especially for this section of traders. These measures, along with the Hindutva agenda, have helped BJP win over north Indians,” said a BJP leader requesting anonymity.

Ancestral ties go a long way – so when the Hindutva wave swept UP, it resonated among north Indians in Mumbai. “The construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya added to the fervour while prime minister Narendra Modi representing Varanasi in the parliament for a decade has been matter of pride for north Indians in Mumbai,” said the BJP leader. “If you consider the past voting trends among this section, you will find a similarity with Purvanchal, in the eastern part of UP, from where most have migrated to Mumbai.”

To use these links to good advantage, BJP is planning to have UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath lead a couple of rallies in the western suburbs or a mix of rallies and a road show just ahead of elections on May 20. The Adityanath held three rallies in three Vidarbha constituencies on Monday. Also in the works are similar events by union minister Rajnath Singh, and actor-politicians Manoj Tiwari and Ravi Kishan, who will be in the city for the Mumbai phase of LS polls.

Sanjay Upadhyay, general secretary of BJP’s Mumbai unit, associated the shift of voters from Congress to BJP with “parallel developments in Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh over the last 10 years”.

“There are nearly 22 lakh north Indian Hindu voters of a total of 98 lakh voters in Mumbai. The programme to bring UP CM Yogi Aditynath and others is yet to be finalised,” said Upadhyay.

While a section of BJP leaders is wary about the discontent among north Indians after the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray extended his support to BJP, Upadhaya is not anxious. “The city has seen periodic agitations against certain communities, be it south Indians, Gujaratis or north Indians. Their intensity subsides as do the sentiments for MNS’s earlier anti-north Indian stance,” he said.

Opposition’s plans

Apart from BJP, opposition parties including Congress and Shiv Sena (UBT) are likely to request former UP CM Akhilesh Yadav and former Bihar deputy CM Tejaswi Yadav to hold rallies or road shows in Mumbai.

“Yadavs and other OBC communities in Mumbai still stand by Congress and Shiv Sena (UBT), while Muslims are expected to oppose BJP en bloc,” said a Congress leader requesting anonymity.

Sarfaraz Arzoo, editor, ‘Hindustan’, an Urdu daily, said, “North Indian voters in Mumbai have very strong links with affairs in Uttar Pradesh which reflects in the city. If Hindu north Indian voters are voting for BJP mirroring UP, the voting pattern among Muslim north Indians will also reflect what is happening in their home state – they feel they are being singled out by the BJP government and it may reflect the way they vote in Mumbai. Muslims, be it north Indians or Konkani or Dakhani, are likely to vote for Shiv Sena (UBT) this time.”

Rais Shaikh, Samajwadi Party MLA, said, “Not that all Hindu north Indians vote for BJP, as their voters are divided in castes. Yadavs and other OBC communities vote for Congress and opposition parties, while the upper castes stand by BJP. Muslims, whether north Indians or locals, are going to stand by the opposition strongly this time because of various reasons, including abrogation of section 370 in J&K, fear of change in the amendment, atrocities, among others.”

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