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2019 Lok Sabha elections: In Mumbai South, it is Deora versus Sawant

While Sawant’s appeal lies in his Marathi manoos charm, a motif echoed by most Marathi voters from the constituency, Deora has managed to woo voters on the basis of his suave and urbane ways

lok sabha elections Updated: Apr 27, 2019 00:35 IST
Eeshanpriya M S
Eeshanpriya M S
(Kunal Patil/HT Photo)

Considered to be one of the most affluent areas in the country and offering a unique mix of voters from tony Malabar Hill and upscale Cuffe Parade to Mohammad Ali Road to Marathi-speaking localities of Parel-Lalbaug, the Mumbai South constituency will see a battle between two-time MP Milind Deora, and son-of-the-soil Arvind Sawant, the sitting MP.

While Sawant’s appeal lies in his Marathi manoos charm, a motif echoed by most Marathi voters from the constituency, Deora has managed to woo voters on the basis of his suave and urbane ways. This is the second time the two contestants are pitted against each other. In 2014, Deora missed a hattrick by a margin of 1.28 lakh votes, when Sawant won amid Modi wave.

Deora bears a legacy handed down to him by his father, Murli Deora, a four-time MP from the constituency. He was elected in 2004 and 2009. The third contestant is Dr Anil Kumar, contesting on a ticket from VBA.

The constituency lies at the heart of the commercial activity of Mumbai, home to institutions such as the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) and the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) headquarters, and main offices of several corporate houses. It also has the famous Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT). It boasts of some of the costliest real estate rates in areas of Altamount Road, Peddar Road, and Malabar Hill, but also houses old congested settlements in areas of Bhendi Bazaar, or dilapidated chawls in areas of Worli, Sewri, and Lower Parel.

However, its very nature renders it difficult to conquer, and dictates a narrative that changes with every rally, every speech, and every public appearance the contestants make, a Congress leader said. He said, “This constituency has a mix of Marathi voters who will support the Sena, the business community who would have supported the BJP, but are discontent with the government due to demonetisation and GST, and a belt where the Congress can fair well.”

Of the six Assembly segments in this constituency, two are held by the Sena in Worli and Shivadi, two by the BJP in Malabar Hill and Colaba, one by Congress in Mumbadevi, and one by AIMIM in Byculla.

According to a Sena leader, who did not wish to be named, before delimitation in 2008, this was a Congress constituency. “However, after delimitation in 2008, areas of Parel and Sewri got added to the constituency, making it a Sena stronghold.”

Deora is seen working harder to garner support from the Marathi belt – from eating Marathi cuisine at traditional Marathi restaurants in Dadar, to speaking the language on social media, and campaigning with NCP chief Sharad Pawar in Girgaum. Suvarna Naik, 58, a resident of Worli’s BDD chawl, a Sena bastion, said, “I am Marathi and will vote for a party that represents me. ”

The voting pattern in areas of Malabar hill and Kalbadevi plays a crucial role. While these families were close to Milind’s father Murli Deora at the peak of his popularity, the Modi wave swept these areas in the last elections.

Also, infrastructure projects such as the coastal road, Metro project, and development of the eastern waterfront have earned both praise and criticism from residents.

First Published: Apr 27, 2019 00:35 IST

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