Mumbai, Oct 9 (IANS) The poll battle to ‘capture’ Mumbai — the country’s commercial capital — has suddenly become hot with the entry of a young scion, top ruling combine leaders being sidelined and sensitive issues like the Aarey Colony tree-massacre or the bloodbath of customers of Punjab & Maharashtra Bank Ltd.
Mumbai and Mumbai Suburban District together account for 36 of the 288 seats in the state legislature, or nearly 12 per cent, with almost a similar ratio of the state population percentage, living and working in cramped conditions in the city jurisdiction (BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation) of around 438 sq.kms.
Traditionally, besides being the financial centre, Mumbai is also the headquarter of the country’s film-and-glam industry, the mafia, the shipping industry, capital of Maharashtra with the reputation of being a ‘city that never sleeps’.
Spanning the posh Colaba-Malabar Hill to the underbellies of Dharavi and Mankhurd slums, upper middle-class and middle-class independent suburbs, the fast-paced city is dotted with picturesque beaches on the west coast and rich marshes or saltpans on the eastern coast.
In the October 21 elections, the Worli seat is grabbing all eyeballs where Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray’s son Aditya is contesting against his main NCP rival Suresh Mane.
On the other hand, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has refused nominations to three heavyweights — Minister Vinod Tawde from Borivali, minister-status holder Raj Purohit from Colaba and former Minister Prakash Mehta, who are the Marathi, Marwari and Gujarati faces of the party, respectively.
Then there is the rebellion in different areas confronting the ruling allies, the most prominent being Sena MLA Trupti Sawant, who is contesting as an independent against the (Sena) official candidate and Mumbai Mayor Vishwanath Mahadeshwar.
Sawant is standing from Bandra East, where the Thackeray residence ‘Matoshri’ is situated, thus making it a huge prestige issue.
Other key contests include: Mumbai BJP President, five-time MLA and prominent realtor Mangal Prabhat Lodha versus Congress’ Hira N. Devasi in the prestigious Malabar Hill constituency; Mumbai NCP President Nawab Malik versus Sena’s Tukaram Kate in Anushakti Nagar, and Congress Deputy Leader in Assembly Naseem Khan challenged by Sena’s Dilip Lande.
This time, Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena is in the fray with candidates in Mumbai, Thane, Nashik, Pune, etc, and ‘strategic arrangements’ with the other opposition parties to checkmate the BJP-Sena.
The Opposition Congress-Nationalist Congress Party are not untouched by this phenomena with both seeing desertions or defections. Senior Congress leader and ex-minister Kripashankar Singh has quit to support the BJP, former actress Urmila Matondkar resigned, while 3-time MP Sanjay Nirupam is keeping away from the campaign, adding to the woes of the allies.
In order to ‘catch’ the urban voters especially the youth, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and the Sena-controlled BMC have concentrated on creating huge road-rail infrastructure projects to ease the torturous commutes.
These include the upcoming Coastal Highway, network of Metro Railway including some underground lines, linking Mumbai with Thane and Raigad with Metro connections, the Mumbai Trans Harbour Link, northern extension of the Rajiv Gandhi Bandra Worli Sea Link, etc, to reduce the burden on the groaning 166-year old suburban railway networks.
However, the government’s intentions came under a cloud over the speed with which over 2000 trees were mercilessly chopped off in Aarey Colony last weekend.
The move sparked off a huge furore among the masses, especially the youth who rallied together for several days to protect the green lung, but were bulldozed by the state power.
Mumbai’s 36 seats have a total of 334 candidates including 31 women, with the largest number of candidates in Chandivali and Anushakti Nagar seats, a whopping 15 each, and the least in Mahim, Bandra West and Borivali, with just four contestants each.
In the 2014 elections, the BJP secured 15, Shiv Sena 14, Congress five, while Samajwadi Party and All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeeen one each.
Similarly, in the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha, the BJP-Sena alliance erased the opposition from all the six Lok Sabha seats in the city, giving it a distinct ‘bullish’ advantage over the opposition.
(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at: email@example.com)