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BMC polls: Muslims side with Shiv Sena, ignore BJP

Hindustan Times | By, Mumbai
Feb 26, 2017 02:27 PM IST

Shiv Sena got two Muslim corporators from 5 wards, but the BJP, which Sena edged by two seats, lost in all 6 wards where it fielded Muslim candidates

The 2017 Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) elections has turned out to be a poll of many firsts. It is the first time in 20 years that the Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) contested independently, with the parties separated by two seats, in favour of the Sena.

It is also the first Mumbai civic election where the Shiv Sena managed a significant foray into several of the city’s Muslim-dominated areas, with two Muslim corporators and a sizeable vote share in several of these wards.

This, despite the party being a pro-Marathi, pro-Hindutva outfit with a sensitive history with the Muslim community, and one whose leader starts almost every public address with, “My Hindu sisters and brothers.”

In a competitive, multi-cornered battle where every seat counted, the Shiv Sena fielded five Muslim candidates in predominantly Muslim belts and polled a vote share of nearly 20 per cent of the total votes across the five wards.

Maulana Mehmood Dariyabadi, general secretary of the All India Ulema Council, a body of Muslim scholars, said, “This time, everyone knew the fight was between the BJP and the Shiv Sena. Between these two parties, not just the Muslims, but all communities with a more secular ideology, prefer the Shiv Sena over BJP. The BJP espouses the ideology of the Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh, which we think has a very fascist doctrine.”

The BJP too fielded six Muslim candidates this election, but none of them won.

The Sena’s incursion in Mumbai’s Muslim-dominated areas is despite the party’s contentious history with the community in the city. The Srikrishna panel indicted Shiv Sena and the then party chief Bal Thackeray, underlining the party’s role in inciting violence during the December 1992-January 1993 communal riots in Mumbai. Some of the areas where Shiv Sena this time propped up Muslim candidates and whipped up a decent vote share were the worst affected During the riots. The report spoke about Thackeray’s role in commanding his troops to retaliate with organised attacks against Muslims. The Sena has always highlighted its part in the riots as that of Mumbai’s saviour.

The Shiv Sena’s first Muslim corporators, Haji Mohammed Halim Khan from Behrampada and Shahida Khan from Amboli, polled 21.17 % and 31.75 % of the total votes cast in their wards, respectively. While a majority of Behrampada’s population comprises Muslims and is also where the Sena went from being nearly non-existent to a victor, the Amboli ward is split between Muslims, Hindus and North Indians.

Khan said, “The Behrampada seat has always gone to either the Congress or the Samajwadi Party, and the Shiv Sena would never get more than 100-200 votes here. This time, this figure surged to 4,052 votes.”

Besides, the Sena, which won 84 seats, also secured the support of a third Muslim corporator, Changez Jamal Multani an independent councillor from Jogeshwari, in the party’s attempt to boost its strength in its close contest with the BJP at 82 seats.

Although the Shiv Sena lost in the three other Muslim-majority wards where it fielded local candidates of the community, in at least two of the three, it polled more than 10 % of the total votes cast.

Shiv Sena candidate Shehnaaz Shaikh from Dharavi drew 2,434 votes, 11.43 % of the total votes cast though she lost to Congress’ Reshambano Khan who polled 7,132 votes. Similarly, Neha Khurshidalam Shaikh, Sena’s candidate from Andheri East, polled 2,934 votes, which was 14.9 % of the total votes in the ward, just over a thousand votes short of the vote count of the winning candidate, Sofi Jabbar, from the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).

Read: Won’t align with Cong, will remain transparent: CM Fadnavis after BMC polls

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