Uddhav faces tough test in old Maharashtra bastion

The fifth phase is the real test of Uddhav’s leadership because a majority of the seats are located in Mumbai Metropolitan Region where Thackeray and Shinde are vying to retain their base to emerge.
Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray (File Photo | PTI)
Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray (File Photo | PTI)

MUMBAI: The biggest test in the fifth and final phase in Maharashtra on May 20 is of Uddhav Thackeray. The results would tell which Sena is real —Uddhav’s or CM Eknath Shinde’s.

Voting is due in 13 constituencies Dhule, Dindori, Nashik, Kalyan, Palghar, Bhiwandi, Thane, Mumbai North, Mumbai North-West, Mumbai North-East, Mumbai North-Central, Mumbai South-Central, Mumbai South. As many as 264 candidates from different parties are in the fray. There are 2,46,69,544 voters (male: 31,38,526, female: 1,15,28,278 and third gender: 2,740.

In Mumbai, of the six seats, the BJP and Shiv Sena represent three each. The BJP has struggled to retain Dhule, Dindori, Kalyan, Palghar, Bhiwandi and three from Mumbai.

The fifth phase is the real test of Uddhav’s leadership because a majority of the seats are located in Mumbai Metropolitan Region where Thackeray and Shinde are vying to retain their base to emerge.

Shinde has a bigger challenge to retain its bastion Kalyan where his son Dr Shrikant Shinde is contesting while his close aide Naresh Mhaske is contesting from Thane, Shinde’s home town. Shinde struggled to get a good candidate in Mumbai and in the end, he nominated controversial Yamini Jadhav for South Mumbai and Ravindra Waikar from Mumbai North West. Both Jadhav and Waikar are under the scanner of Central agencies and switched sides from the Uddhav camp to the Shinde-led Sena ahead of elections.

Many Shiv Sena MLAs from rural Maharashtra deserted Uddhav along with prominent party leaders, but most of the Mumbai MLAs and corporators preferred to remain with him during the political slugfest and the battle for dominance.

Uddhav is looking to consolidate his Marathi manoos vote bank along with minority votes and amid a breach in the lower caste voters of North India to prove his grip over Mumbai and its adjoining region.

The minorities, particularly Muslims, never voted for Shiv Sena because of his Hindutva ideology. However, Uddhav after taking the reins of the state with NCP and Congress redefined his party’s ideology and tilted towards an ‘inclusive Hindutva’ acceptable to the minorities, said an observer.

Uddhav is trying to develop a formidable ‘Mamu’ (Marathi-plus minority) or M2 factor against the BJP and its allies. On the other hand, to break the Marathi manoos chunk, the BJP is relying on Gujarati, Marwari, and North Indians with the help of MNS chief Raj Thackeray. They want to break the Marathi vote bank to repeat the 2014-2019 tally without Uddhav,” said the observer.

He said BJP’s move to take Raj help could backfire. “Most North Indians in Mumbai are pro-BJP but they do not like BJP aligning with Raj. The reason is MNS workers assaulted North Indians alleging that they were snatching jobs of Marathis and encroaching on their land. Modi and Raj are scheduled to address a joint rally on May 17 at Shivaji Park.

In Mumbai, Marathis are around 28 to 30% while Muslims and Christian are more than 18%. If Uddhav is able to get a majority of M2, then he is close to victory and is winning as many seats as he the previous Lok Sabha elections.

The Shiv Sena (UBT) is also trying to give Marathi-versus-Gujarati colour so that they can consolidate Marathi vote bank against the BJP. Two recent incidents added fire to a simmering incident in Mumbai.

In a Mumbai suburb of Ghatkopar, a Gujarati-dominated housing society blocked the entry of Shiv Sena (UBT) workers for campaigning though they had permission from the authority. The Shiv Sena (UBT) sprang into action alleging Marathis were not allowed in Mumbai. The incident also heightened the feeling of insecurity among the Marathis. Besides, one of the Girgaum-based firms issued an advertisement asking the Marathis not to apply. This ad also caused a flutter in political and Marathi circles over how such an issue could be raised through advertisements in Mumbai.

Gujaratis are perceived to be voters of the BJP in Mumbai and they got certain pockets in western and eastern suburbs. PM Modi and Union minister Amit Shah are from Gujarat. So, the Gujarati voters naturally connect with the BJP and its leadership. PM Modi also had his roadshow in Ghatkopar. Earlier Gujaratis voted for Congress in Mumbai. They are never the voters of the Shiv Sena but Sena (UBT) wants to use them to consolidate its vote bank.

The BJP is also facing ire of onion farmers in Nasik-Dhule belt where Asia’s largest onion market Lasalgaon is located. Union MoS Bharati Pawar faced the wrath during her campaign by the onion farmers over the fall in prices.

During the PM Modi rally in Nasik, some of the onion farmers tried to create a ruckus. PM Modi later assured the farmers that his government is doing everything to help them.

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