Maharashtra Lok Sabha Election 2024: Mumbai Becomes Key Battleground For State's Political Landscape As Parties Vie For Dominance

Maharashtra Lok Sabha Election 2024: Mumbai Becomes Key Battleground For State's Political Landscape As Parties Vie For Dominance

For four out of six players in Maharashtra, the mantra is: "Mumbai meri jaan".

Rohit ChandavarkarUpdated: Thursday, April 18, 2024, 12:37 PM IST
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Last week Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray announced that he would extend "unconditional support" to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and said his party would not contest a single seat. A lot of speculation followed this announcement. The obvious reason is that most players now eye Mumbai as the big prize. For four out of six players in Maharashtra, the mantra is: "Mumbai meri jaan".

The BJP always had ambitions of dominating not just the state assembly but also the BMC. The party tied up with Bal Thackeray’s Shiv Sena in the late 1980s and together they contested almost all subsequent elections. However, after the Modi wave of 2014, the BJP changed gears. It contested the 2017 BMC polls on its own. This eventually led to the Shiv Sena walking away from the BJP post-2019 assembly polls.

Now, the BJP feels that it’s crucial to dominate cosmopolitan Mumbai. A big win here will show that the party is acceptable to all communities. That is why it has kept its card close to its chest when it comes to announcing candidates from the prestigious South Mumbai seat, or even the North West and North Central constituencies.

The Shiv Sena is predominantly a Mumbai-based party. In 1995, when the Sena first came to power in the assembly, its support came from Mumbai city, suburbs,Thane and Navi Mumbai. This time the party wants to retain as many seats in Mumbai as possible. The Shiv Sena (undivided) won South Mumbai, Mumbai South Central and Mumbai North West in 2019 and has aggressively announced candidates in all these seats without caring what its alliance partners might think.

The Congress expected that its candidate Varsha Gaikwad would get the Maha Vikas Aghadi ticket from Mumbai South Central, but Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Uddhav Thackeray went ahead and announced the name of former Rajya Sabha member Anil Desai as his candidate from there. Clearly for Uddhav, Mumbai is a matter of prestige. He perhaps feel that he must prepare for the assembly and municipal polls by winning as many seats now as possible.

Eknath Shinde is facing his first electoral test after splitting from the Shiv Sena. Shinde’s home turf is Thane. But Thane is like an extended part of Mumbai city as most of its residents visit Mumbai almost daily for work or business. The six Lok Sabha seats and 38 assembly seats of Mumbai matter a lot to Shinde. Mumbai is the most important battleground for Shinde because the main task that the BJP wants him to fulfil is defeat Thackeray in as many constituencies as possible. Shinde’s Sena is all geared up to flex its muscle in Mumbai even as three out of six candidates are yet to be decided.

For Raj Thackeray’s MNS, it is now a matter of survival. The party won 13 seats in the assembly in 2009; now it has a single member in the House. The MNS won seven seats in the 2017 BMC polls, but six of them later crossed over to the Shiv Sena (undivided). Raj is a hardcore Mumbai politician. It is critical for him to retain some influence in Mumbai. The BJP wants to use Raj’s manpower against Uddhav’s Shiv Sena and cut into its base in Mumbai. The two factions of the NCP are the only two parties that don’t seem much bothered about Mumbai. They are focused mainly on western Maharashtra. For others, however, the mantra is: 'Mumbai meriJaan!'

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