History of Low Turn Outs, Raj Thackeray’s Emergence as BJP Critic and Development Narrative Dominate Poll Pitch in Mumbai
A look at the 17 constituencies of Maharashtra in fray tells us that the mantle has clearly shifted to the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance from the hands of Congress, which for the longest had an impregnable foothold here.
Congress' Milind Deora during election campaign in Mumbai. (Twitter)
As Maharashtra goes to polls in the fourth phase of the Lok Sabha elections on Monday, the Congress will face the uphill tough task of reclaiming its lost base in the state capital, Mumbai. The maximum city, which was once a Congress bastion, was swept into the NDA fold in the ‘Modi Wave’ of 2014, with the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and Shiv Sena winning all the six seats in the city.
A look at the 17 constituencies of the state in fray tells us that the mantle has clearly shifted to the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance from the hands of Congress, which for the longest had an impregnable foothold here. In 2004, the Congress-NCP together held 8 of the 10 seats, seven of which were added after the delimitation that took place in 2008.
In the next general election of 2009, the Congress-led alliance secured 10 of the 17 seats, while the BJP alliance won 6. There was an insurmountable shift in this trend in 2014, when the might of the BJP alliance in the state won all the 17 seats – leaving nothing for the Congress and NCP.
With the Congress continuing to try its luck at the hustings, the profiles of candidates in this phase suggest that the NDA this time, has relied on its sitting MPs than introducing the new ones. They have fielded sitting MPs on 15 seats out of the 17 seats. The Congress and NCP together, have fielded 8 of the former MPs in the ring.
A high spirited Congress has been on the offensive by persistently mounting its attack on the ruling government’s failure to deliver on the ‘development’ promise. This assumes significance because the saffron alliance, has been batting for a host of Union and State government schemes for the urban population, especially aimed at improving transport and infrastructure in Mumbai.
Interestingly, the demographic profile of the voters in Maharashtra reveals that 11 of the 17 constituencies of the state are urban, with more than 80 per cent of its population living in urban set-ups. In the case of Mumbai, however, 100 per cent of the population belongs to the urban category. This means that key issues in these particular regions are different than the rest of the state. However, the opposition has been quick to take the lead and vociferously point out cracks in the ruling government’s development narrative here.
The Congress is betting on actress Urmila Matondkar in Mumbai North, while the NCP has given chance to Marathi actor Amol Kolhe from Shirur constituency. Kolhe shares widespread popularity among the masses here because of his role as Shivaji Maharaj in a popular daily soaps.
Actor-turned-politician Urmila Matondkar is contesting against sitting MP of BJP Gopal Shetty, who is known for winning against high profile candidates. The scion of Sharad Pawar family, Parth Pawar, is another new entrant in this election.
Despite the state capital's camaraderie of high voltage, star-studded battles, elections in Mumbai are often marred with dismal voter turnout. The constituencies -- Mumbai South, Mumbai North, Mumbai South Central, Mumbai North Central, Mumbai North East and Mumbai North West – barely managed to cross the 50 per cent mark in 2014. This was even when the voter turnout across the country experienced a distinct rise.
Similarly in 2009, the average turnout in Mumbai was just 41.5 per cent—the highest being 44.1 in Mumbai North-West constituency. This means that almost half of voters in the financial capital of India did not exercise their right to vote in the last two general election.
One of the key battles emerges out of south Mumbai, where the Congress has fielded Milind Deora. The two-time MP and former cabinet minister Deora will lock horns with sitting MP and Shiv Sena candidate Arvind Sawant.
Another important factor this time around is that of Raj Thackeray. The founder and leader of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), has suddenly taken over the opposition by drawing large crowds in western Maharashtra with his articulate criticism against the Narendra Modi government.
His new ways of presentation has been admired by many and of course, disliked by the BJP. Even though Thackeray has not fielded any candidate in the elections, he has led a high-decibel campaign against the Modi-Shah duo this time. This staunch criticism of PM Modi by Thackeray, many believe, is likely to affect the voting pattern.
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