Mumbai: An army marches on its stomach, it is said. An army of voters too could be lured with snack diplomacy, going by the Shiv Sena's crisp, sweet-sour overtures to the Gujarati community. Ahead of the ensuing elections to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation and nine other civic bodies in 2021 and 2022, the Shiv Sena, is making a serious bid to woo Gujaratis, who are traditionally, BJP supporters. A select group of 100 members of the Gujarati community will gather on Sunday in a western suburb, for an event with the tagline, “Mumbai Ma Jalebi Fafda Uddhav Thackeray Apda.”
This is the first such 'appetiser' to checkmate the BJP, which has launched Mission Mumbai 2022 with a resolve to elect its own mayor and end the rule of the Shiv Sena in India’s richest civic body. Gujaratis account for 25 per cent of Mumbai's population.
During Aaditya Thackeray's assembly election campaign in Worli, the Shiv Sena had lured Gujaratis with posters that asked, 'Kem Cho Worli?' (How are you Worli).
“Apart from strongly pursuing the Marathi Manoos plank, the Shiv Sena, which is heading the Maha Vikas Aghadi government with the NCP and the Congress, proposes to consolidate its strength by luring non-Marathi speaking populations. Vada-Pao goes well with Jalebi- Fafda,’’ said a senior minister.
As a poll strategy, the Shiv Sena will reach out to the Gujarati-dominated areas including Mulund, Ghatkopar, Vile Parle, Andheri, Goregaon, Kandivli and Borivli, with the MVA government’s successful handling of the coronavirus pandemic and also the launch of a slew of development projects in the city.
This apart, the Shiv Sena will expose the Centre over its flop demonetisation scheme, the GST regime and the handling of the economy amid the pandemic. The Shiv Sena plans to cash in on the Gujaratis' growing disenchantment with the Centre.
The party will also aggressively take up the Centre’s lack of cooperation in Mumbai Metro 3 carshed project and delays in the clearance of GST compensation dues.
“The BJP is restless, as the saffron party is unable to digest Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray's successful weathering of every crisis. It has therefore made repeated announcements about winning the BMC poll and ending the Shiv Sena's rule. Therefore, for Shiv Sena, the coming BMC poll is of great importance and the snack diplomacy is a part of the party’s strategy to reach out to various communities, to strongly take on the BJP,” said Hemraj Shah, the Shiv Sena’s national organising secretary.
Shah said the BJP lost power because of the rigid stand taken by the Gujarati leadership (without naming Home Minister Amit Shah) and its parochial view of not sharing power with a Marathi leader. He also indirectly attacked former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis for blindly following the party’s central leadership and not agreeing to Shiv Sena’s equal-sharing formula.