BMC Polls: Meet the campaign managers, who are moulding strategies for major political parties

They are the ones with the Midas touch, the ones who create a brand out of a politico, the ones who can make or break political careers with one fell swoop. Meet the campaign managers of major political parties who are shoring up their strategies for the BMC election.

Shiv sena’s three musketeers
Three Sainiks drive the party’s strategy wagon: MLC and advocate Anil Parab, Rajya Sabha MP Anil Desai, and party chief Uddhav Thackeray’s assistant and secretary, Milind Narvekar. The party is relying on a “show and tell” plan; it’s tooting all the promises it has delivered on, while reminding voters that it’s in it for the long haul.

(From left) MP Anil Desai, Anil Parab and Milind Narvekar
(From left) MP Anil Desai, Anil Parab and Milind Narvekar

Parab handles all legal and technical issues, and the seat calculations. Desai, who looks into policy formations, crunches political data and helps make sense of them.

But has the party had to rethink its strategy after ending its 25-year-old alliance with the BJP? Desai claims that the BJP had been riding on the Sena’s strength all long. “They (BJP) were throwing criticism our way, saying we lacked in transparency, but the Economic Survey tabled in Parliament last week has ranked the BMC No. 1 in terms of transparency and accountability. The BJP’s claims have fallen flat.”

Narvekar, a powerful equivocator in political circles, is known as Uddhav’s ‘eye.’ He also plays a crucial role in recruitments. “He has equations across parties and keeps tabs on how content people are in their respective parties,” says Desai.

In BJP, the leader knows best
The party’s strategy seems to be 'follow the leader'. With prominent figures such as CM Devendra Fadnavis and PM ˆNarendra Modi heading the cabinets, the party appears to have adopted a trickle-down centralised strategy, the reins of which lie with the BJP’s state spokesperson, Shweta Shalini.

BJP spokesperson Shweta Shalini
BJP spokesperson Shweta Shalini

"We are taking our leader(s)'s vision to every person across the state," she says. “The strategy has remained the same in that aspect. It wasn’t dependent on any alliance.” Shalini says the party will focus on the spirit of Mumbai (a la the ‘Mi Mumbai’ campaign). But is the strategy enough to win without the Sena? “Change is inevitable; we are winning,” she says.

BJP-Sena’s loss, Congress’s gain
With over 25 years of political mileage, Leader of the Opposition Pravin Chheda has picked Jitendra Mehta (50), Manthan Mehta (26), Sanjay Mucchada (53) and Manish Vora (45) to overlook the campaign strategy.

Congress leader Pravin Chedda and team
Congress leader Pravin Chedda and team

The Congress’ plan seems straightforward: Ride on the BJP-Shiv Sena’s corruption wave. “The BJP-Sena have been fighting and playing the blame game amongst themselves. This itself is a plus point for the Congress,” says Chheda.

It’s the Gujarati and Jain vote bank — 17% of the city’s voter base and 60% of Ghatkopar’s — that the party is relying on. “The Gujarati or Jain community is a majority in around 50 of 227 constituencies,” reveals Mehta. He says the party would rid the BMC of corruption if it came to power by making every tender process “more transparent”.

Corporator Rais Shaikh
Corporator Rais Shaikh

SP to wave growth card
Moulding its strategy is corporator Rais Shaikh. The party will play its development card, basing it on the recent success it enjoyed in Govandi under Shaikh. Shaikh and his team have been reaching out to the youth through weekly meetings in Wadala, Sewri, Kurla and south Mumbai.

The Marathi manoos still has MNS’ heart
Shalini Thackeray, general secretary, and leaders Shirish Sawant and Nitin Sardesai form the MNS’ core campaign strategy team. They are focusing primarily on “drawing a contrasting parallel to the work of the BMC” as well as the tried and tested appeal to the sentiments of the Marathi manoos.

The party yesterday began highlighting the development works — as its “biggest strategy” — it has accomplished in Nashik, which, too, goes to polls on February 21. Nashik had won the India’s most promising city award in 2015 under the leadership of MNS.

Shalini reiterates the party’s frequent grouse of ‘the sons of the soil’ getting a short shrift. “We are against the heavy influx of people coming into Mumbai and taking the Mumbaikar’s due right away.” The MNS hopes to make a direct voter connect with posters on the backs of seats of BEST buses.

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