As the campaign for the Lok Sabha elections came to a close on Tuesday, the city is getting ready to elect its six representatives on Thursday. The votes of 20 per cent Muslims will be crucial in deciding the fate of the candidates in at least two constituencies.
Congress candidates Milind Deora and Priya Dutt are largely depending on the Muslim votes in Mumbai South and Mumbai North-Central, respectively. While Deora is facing Shiv Sena’s Arvind Sawant and Bala Nandgaonkar of the MNS, the BJP has pitted Poonam Mahajan-Rao against Dutt.
A large number of Muslims in the rallies of AAP’s Meera Sanyal in Mumbai South had worried the Congress. However, it got a helping hand from the followers of Imam of Jama Masjid. A M Anjaria, a member of Jama Masjid Advisory Council, appealed to the community members to vote for the Congress “to stop communal forces”.
“We also had asked them whether they would support Narendra Modi. Majority of the respondents have put their weight behind the Congress,” Anjaria said.
Meanwhile, BJP leader Atul Shah countered Anjaria’s claim. “I don’t think Muslims will come out for voting in a big number this time. They too are not happy with the wrong policies of the Congress. They would vote for the AAP instead of the Congress. Also, the dominant Gujarati and Jain voters will vote for Sawant because they want to see Narendra Modi as the PM,” he said.
These communities had voted for the Congress in the past elections because they did not appreciate the son-of-the-soil theory of the Shiv Sena and MNS.
The Congress hopes that the MNS will again make a dent into the NDA votes like it did in the 2009 election. The Shiv Sena had stood at third because Nandgaonkar had secured 1.75 lakh votes in that election.
The Shiv Sena believes that the MNS is not impressive this time. “People have realised that a vote for MNS is a vote for the Congress,” Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut said. Dutt is also relying on traditional Muslim votes for a hat-trick. She is reaping fruits of her late father Sunil Dutt’s social work in the Muslim areas of her constituency.
Muslims constitute 16 per cent in this cosmopolitan constituency. In the closed door meetings with Muslim groups, Dutt insisted that Modi would not allow to run abettors should he became the PM.
The BJP, surprisingly, countered the argument by putting a fact before the community that Modi-ruled Gujarat is the largest meat exporter in the country. The BJP has tried to strengthen SP’s Farhan Azmi so that he could eat into Dutt’s vote bank.
In addition to that, the BJP is depending on the seven lakh Maharashtrian voters in the constituency.