Mumbai: Despite demonetisation and the GST hangover, the BJP-Shiv Sena juggernaut overran all the seats in Mumbai. The Mumbai-Thane region has 10 seats and all of them were secured by the saffron combine. MNS failed to make a dent as its core Marathi voters, too, plumbed for the saffron alliance.
Milind Deora was considered a sure winner from South Mumbai after businessman Mukesh Ambani and banker Uday Kotak gave him a positive testimonial.
In fact, Arvind Sawant was on the back foot in the last phase of the campaign. Demonetisation and GST had hit the business community and the traders the most. Therefore, South Mumbai, which is home to captains of industry, was expected to vote against the BJP-Shiv Sena.
But both Marathi and the core BJP-Sena voters stood behind Sawant, which was merely an endorsement of the Modi government. Milind Deora had pressurised the Congress High Command to appoint him Mumbai Congress President just before the elections.
The change of guard, at the last minute, proved costly for the Congress. It lost all the seats in Mumbai. Priya Dutt was supposed to win against Poonam Mahajan. But the Congress machinery and leaders were missing on the ground in the North-Central constituency. She had to fight a lone battle.
Also, the core supporters of the Congress, the Muslim community, did not votedin large numbers. BJP’s Muslim leaders succeeded in ensuring that the community voters did not come out in large numbers to vote for Dutt. The core BJP-Shiv Sena vote bank supported Mahajan, despite their reservations about her functioning.
Urmila Matondkar, the new entrant in politics, was fielded at the eleventh hour and was a political greenhorn; she was expected to take on a political heavyweight like Gopal Shetty from Mumbai-North. More important, the Congress leaders played truant during the campaign. Since Shetty had won the election in 2014 by more than 4.50 Lakh votes, Matondkar’s defeat was a foregone conclusion.
Yet her celebrity status caught the imagination of some voters and drew crowds. The 30 percent Gujarati vote share in this constituency and the good work done by Shetty finally stood him in good stead. In Mumbai North East, Manoj Kotak of the BJP, who had replaced sitting MP Kirit Somaiya after much fuss, won the election.
It was being said that NCP candidate Sanjay Dina Patil may win as disgruntled elements in the BJP and the Shiv Sena were expected to clandestinely help the NCP. Shiv Sena leaders were openly speaking against the BJP in this constituency. Even Somaiya was reluctant to help Kotak. But Patil’s lack of access to voters and his reserved nature proved his undoing.
Mumbai-North West was slated to ensure Shiv Sena candidate Gajanan Kirtikar’s victory. As the constituency has a large Marathi contingent, Nirupam had to struggle to wean them away. Rahul Shewale managed to retain the seat for second time, a rarity in Mumbai South Central constituency. Congress candidate Eknath Shinde, a 75 years plus candidate, failed to campaign with gusto.
This constituency has a strong Sena base at the ground level and Shewale managed to persuade local MNS leaders to help him. Shiv Sena-BJP workers unity: Shiv Sena workers were unhappy about the alliance with BJP but they finally heeded the orders from the leadership.
Sena has a very strong network of corporators and local shakhas in Mumbai. This proved a blessing. The NCP, in any case, has always had a feeble presence in Mumbai. Leadership of both the NCP and the Congress ignored calls to reinforce their parties in Mumbai.
MNS Failed: Raj Thackeray was instrumental in building a groundswell against the Modi government. His high-decibel rallies were attended by a large number of people but it did not help the Congress-NCP. Significantly, both parties lost all the seats where Raj Thackeray had held campaign rallies.