Minority candidates are finally in the major leagues of city politics. In this year’s high stakes BMC election, all seven major parties have turned to minority communities to win over voters.
BJP-Sena break pattern
While the NCP and Congress have topped the list, saffron parties Shiv Sena and BJP have broken their pattern of fielding mostly Marathi and Gujarati-speaking Hindus, and have given tickets to several minority contestants.
According to the political observers, now that the sometime allies are fighting the polls alone, party leaders fear that sticking to their hindutva agenda will damage their chances of winning a clear-cut majority (114 seats out of 227).
In the last election in 2012, the BJP-Sena alliance did not give tickets to a single Muslim or Christian candidate. This year, the parties combined have fielded four Christians and 11
Most of the advantage has fallen to the Muslim community, and for good reason. According to data available with the election department, the Muslim vote share in Mumbai comes up to a hefty 15%.
In 2012, there were just 23 Muslim candidates in the fray. This year, the number has swelled almost ten times — there are now 207 Muslims contesting on behalf of the seven parties. This is a lion’s share of the 221 minority candidates across all the parties.
Mumbai BJP president Ashish Shelar said, “Our list of candidates reflects people from various religions because our leader, PM Narendra Modi, does not believe in discrimination on the basis of caste or religion. That’s why our party’s motto is ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas’. We have also given tickets to citizen activists.”
Sena spokesperson Dr Manisha Kayande told this reporter, “Shiv Sena has always given priority to all communities. Although we have given tickets to the Christian community for first time, Muslims have always been a part of Sena. The tickets were given to all of them on the basis of their work.”
No Parsi representation
This will be the first time in 50 years that the BMC polls will see zero representation from the Parsi community. Their sole representation was by a Parsi family contesting from Mumbai Central. However, after the delimitation of wards, the family decided not to contest anymore.