Thursday, 2 October 2014

Gujarati voters to play key role in 12 seats

MUMBAI: The Gujarati community is set to tilt the scales in some of Mumbai's key constituencies, and lend an edge to the Shiv Sena-BJP feud.

According to conservative estimates, Mumbai has a 35 lakh-strong Gujarati population. Fifteen lakh are voters. The split in the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance has cleared the decks for the trading class to accept the BJP's overtures, said a key party functionary on Wednesday.

However, poll pundits say the long-simmering Gujarati-Sena tension, escalated by the builder(Gujarati)-tenant (Marathi) spat in many areas, may result in polarization of votes along ethnic-linguistic lines, thus casting a shadow on constituencies such as Mumbadevi, Vile Parle, Borivli, Kandivli and Ghatkopar.

"Four Ms—Narendra Modi, Mars mission, Make In India campaign and the PM's Madison Square speech—will give a big leg-up to the BJP in the assembly elections," said Vivek Upadhyay, social activist and a trustee of the Malad-Kandivli Education Society.

"How Gujaratis vote will determine poll results in the Mumbadevi and Malabar Hill constituencies in south Mumbai, and in Malad, Kandivli, Borivli, Dahisar, Charkop, Ghatkopar and Mulund," said Ajit Joshi, a chronicler of the Gujarati diaspora in Mumbai.

Stating that Gujaratis have for nearly two decades exhibited a marked preference for the BJP, Joshi said the BJP's poll ties with the Sena often irked the mercantile class. "Now that the saffron alliance is over, Gujaratis will step out of their homes on October 15 and vote for BJP candidates."

The Congress isn't losing hope of winning over Gujaratis, though. "Not all Gujaratis are BJP supporters. The Congress too has a share of Gujarati-Rajasthani supporters and a large share at that," said Congress corporator Shiva Shetty.

The Mumbai BJP, too, thinks that unflinching support from Gujarati voters will be a positive fallout of the end of the saffron partnership.

"The trading class has for long resented the Sena's arm-twisting tactics. Cases of Shiv Sainiks forcibly collecting 'vargani' (public subscription) for Govinda-Ganpati festivals from the steel, food grain and cloth markets are a dime a dozen. The Sena-controlled trade unions often brought a Gujarati entrepreneur to grief," an expert said.

Many Marathi speakers, who do not subscribe to the Sena's coercive practices, are of the view that the mercantile community has over the last decade swamped Mumbai with impunity, showing scant regard to local history, tradition and culture.

"The entire Girgaum-Khetwadi belt has been usurped by Gujaratis and Marwaris. They have sent Marathi speakers to Dombivli and Badlapur. To make matters worse, Gujaratis have a manic obsession with vegetarianism. They can't issues fatwas on my dietary habits. Second, the Gujarati community has a penchant to show off wealth," said Vinod Chavan, who works in a suburban engineering unit.

The Mumbai BJP's main concern is to strike a balance between the fun-and-fafda loving Gujaratis and the poha-chai-taking Marathi speakers, say party activists.

Stay updated on the go with The Times of India’s mobile apps. Click here to download it for your device.



Post a Comment