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Mumbai’s electorate trends, routs and new beginnings

The data map of results in Mumbai’s six Lok Sabha seats in the last seven elections tell us mini-stories about the parties, now jostling for our attention – and votes.

mumbai Updated: Mar 29, 2019 16:35 IST
Smruti Koppikar
Smruti Koppikar
Hindustan Times
Political polarisation and a “wave” help the BJP-Shiv Sena and hurt the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party. The latter was wiped out twice – in 1996 and 2014.(Representational photo)

If a data map of results in Mumbai’s six Lok Sabha seats in the last seven elections - beginning with 1991- was drawn up, a few trends would stand out. These are insightful and tell us mini-stories about the parties now jostling for our attention – and votes.

Political polarisation and a “wave” help the BJP-Shiv Sena and hurt the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party. The latter was wiped out twice – in 1996 and 2014 – when general elections were dominated by pro-BJP and pro-Modi waves respectively. The BJP-Sena reaped dividends from its divisive Ram Janmabhoomi movement and Babri Masjid demolition in 1992. The late Pramod Mahajan and Bal Thackeray mobilised and fed off the Hindutva sentiment. Also, the Sena-BJP government was governing Maharashtra since 1995.

The pro-Modi wave is too recent to be recalled but suffice it to say that the then Gujarat chief minister had laid the groundwork for many months before Mumbai voted. The “wave” election also meant that the BJP-Sena together (the alliance led by the national party for the first time since they joined forces in the 80s) bagged 56% of the votes cast. It was a staggering 16% more than what the Congress-NCP had in 2009 when they had won all six seats.

Another trend is that the BJP-Sena faces an uphill task when there are national issues affecting the average Mumbaiite and the Congress has capitalised on the anti-incumbency factor. The Sena-BJP had come within a whisker of a rout in 2004; it had managed to win only one of the six seats. Mohan Rawle, Sena’s trusted and doughty fighter, won though the margin of his victory over NCP’s Sachin Ahir was barely 20,000.

The Vajpayee government’s iffy track record till 2004 – including the Gujarat pogrom of 2002 – was sullied further by the BJP’s “India Shining” campaign; the Congress stole a march winning five of the six seats. Yet another trend is that the Congress-NCP emerges with a good report card when it successfully corners the BJP-Sena on issues of national significance, as it had done in 2004. Unlike its political adversary, the Congress nets a better result when it capitalises on issues rather than on personalities, however towering he/she may be.

However, this comes with a rider. The Congress is successful if it manages, in every sense of the word, the opposition in every seat across Mumbai. This was most apparent in 2009 when the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, Raj Thackeray’s nascent party’s candidates split the Sena-BJP votes. In every seat except North Central which Priya Dutt won with a large margin, MNS candidates got more votes than the margin of victory of Congress candidates. The Sena-BJP was routed in this election.

Now in 2019, the BJP-Sena alliance has to contend with the fact that there isn’t a wave in its favour and sections of its voters are not exactly delighted with the state of the economy, but the party has unparalleled electoral machinery down to booth pramukhs, unlimited resources, and advantages of being in power. The Congress-NCP has the uphill task of energising their cadres, consolidating their respective organisations’ strength such that it is, and ensuring that the party has the resources it needs.

Besides this, the Congress has to find ways to keep its fractious feuds out. It isn’t that internecine battles such as Sanjay Nirupam versus Milind Deora exist only in the Congress but they hurt the party more than turf wars hurt the BJP or Sena. Such battles are not new; they existed from the time SK Patil headed the city unit and were rife in the 1991-2014 years too when the late Murli Deora helmed it. But then, the party was the lead party, in dominance.

It is well known that Nirupam and Deora did not see eye to eye on the way forward for the Mumbai Congress. To his credit, Nirupam had made the party visible after its debacle in 2014 and mobilised sections of Mumbaiites, but he could not be as inclusive or resource-rich as the party needed. The party has a better chance with Deora at the helm. He has his task cut out including winning his seat, the prestigious Mumbai South, too.

First Published: Mar 29, 2019 16:34 IST