When you go to vote today, political parties will be watching you very closely because, for them, every vote matters in this election. From three, the number of major players has increased to five — in some cases, it has gone up to six, with regional parties fielding candidates in hitherto unexplored territory for them. With the division of vote share, every vote is going to count.
In the falling apart of BJP-Shiv Sena and Congress-NCP, parties that were earlier non-existent in the city have smelled an opportunity. The All-India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM), which, till date, restricted itself to only Hyderabad and some corporation seats in Nanded, has put up half a dozen candidates in Mumbai, in the Muslim-dominated belts of Mumbadevi, Versova, Mankhurd-Shivaji Nagar and others. This has put the Congress, NCP and Samajwadi Party in a fix. MIM will now eat into votes which these parties assumed would come to them. The Congress, especially, which assumed the Muslims were on its side, will be worried. With the five-corner contest, it is set to lose its traditional vote bank, and the consolidation of Hindu votes may help saffron parties take the lead.
The NCP doesn’t have much of a presence in the city except in Worli, Vikhroli, Anushakti Nagar (another minority populated area), Kurla and Dindoshi. Nawab Malik has been winning in Anushakti Nagar for decades, but the party largely relies on votes coming in from western Maharashtra.
The other major vote bank for parties is north Indians, whose support the BJP has traditionally enjoyed, except in Kalina, Chandivli and Kandivli East. These three have been going to the Congress. This time, with even Shiv Sena putting up north Indian candidates, the unidirectional swing of votes is also set to break.
BJP has traditionally garnered votes from the Gujaratis and Marwaris in Ghatkopar East, Borivli, Mulund and Charkop. These seats have elected a BJP candidate for two-three terms. This time, however, the Sena poses a challenge to the BJP by putting up strong Marathi candidates in these areas.
In Dharavi and Kurla, which are reserved seats, votes are mostly candidate-driven. However, trends in the Lok Sabha polls showed that these areas voted for the BJP-Sena combine; and the BJP is largely considered a party of upper middle-class and middle-class voters.
Dharavi’s BJP candidate is doing well for herself. Sena’s Kurla candidate is also said to be faring well. Congress and NCP candidates currently hold the Dharavi and Kurla seats respectively.
The anti-incumbency factor is set to ensure an uphill battle for Congress’s sitting Dharavi MLA, Varsha Gaikwad.
Mumbai’s elites, it is said, do not care for voting. But even they are being targeted this time. The BJP, which has considerable clout in Malabar Hill, and the Congress, which holds sway in Colaba, are taking divergent paths. The BJP is encouraging the uber-rich to come out and vote, to ensure they clock in more support. The Congress, on the other hand, wants them to stay home so that the slum pockets, who have largely gone with the Congress, help ensure a victory for the party.
Sons of the soil
When it comes to the Marathi vote bank, both the Shiv Sena and MNS claim it as their own. Middle-class Maharashtrian families have been loyal to the Sena, with a few moving away to the MNS when it was formed. Both parties are trying their best to get the Marathi voters to go with them. In addition, the BJP, which is being painted as anti-Marathi by these two parties, is also trying to woo the daughters and sons of the soil.
Voting in slums and chawls follows a unique methodology. Often, the chawl or slum head decides which party to support and all others abide by his choice. Almost every party, including the BJP — which hasn’t made many inroads into slums — have been trying to reach out to these pockets. Slums have always been Congress bastions; take Kalina, for example.
With so many vote banks and varied voting dynamics, each vote matters and parties know this.
Hence, they have used every rule in the book to reach out to voters. With the break in the alliances, this election is also a fight for parties to preserve their identities.
The Sena is fighting for Mumbai; the BJP wishes for the people to ride the Modi wave again; Congress and NCP are trying to save face and MNS is fighting a survival battle. That’s why, your vote today is not just a black mark on your finger. It may as well mark the destiny of the political scenario in the city.