Let me kick off the series on Lok Sabha contests in Mumbai in 2019, by focusing on the Mumbai North West constituency.
The Mumbai North West Lok Sabha constituency includes varied assembly segments. Jogeshwari East predominantly has lower middle class and slum population, mostly Marathi, followed by North Indians and Muslims. Dindoshi has huge middle class Marathi population followed by Gujarati and North Indian population. Goregaon was a middle class Marathi haven but the demography has changed with increasing slums and many high rises coming up n this constituency. Versova has huge North Indian and muslim population and it includes posh areas as well as slums. Andheri West and Andheri East are huge assembly constituencies with diverse population groups including significant minority population.
In the LS 2014 election, Gajanan Kirtikar (Shiv Sena) was the NDA candidate and won by a margin of 1,83,028 (20.4%) votes by defeating his nearest candidate Gurudas Kamat (Cong). This result was a combination of the Modi wave and impact of the BJP – Shiv Sena alliance, leading to 52% votes being polled by the Sena candidate. Kamat the sitting MP at the time, was defeated by a huge margin of 20%.
The assembly segment wise vote split for LS 2014 is as follows,
In LS 2019, the picture will be totally different. It will be a triangular fight between the BJP, Shiv Sena and the Congress. It’s more or less clear that BJP and Shiv Sena will fight seperately in the coming lok sabha elections, barring unforeseen circumstances. This was always on the cards as the after effects of the Modi wave of 2014 made BJP the big brother in the Maharashtra Vidhan Sabha election, held in late 2014 (six months after the LS 2014 election). BJP basking in the massive LS victory of 2014 got 122 seats, almost double as that of the Sena’s 63 seats. This changed the decades old equation between BJP and Sena, where the Sena was the big brother and used to fight 171 assembly seats and BJP fought 117 seats in alliance.
BJP with it’s efficient party organisation started it’s creeping acquisition of Mumbai from the Shiv Sena. This became evident in the BMC elections of March 2017, when BJP won 82 wards compared to the Sena’s 84. Huge chunk of the wards won by BJP were in the Northern and Western suburbs of Mumbai, which includes the Mumbai North West constituency. Sena held on to power in the BMC by the thinnest of margins. The Sena top brass realized that BJP has become the big brother now and allying with it would be like signing their own death warrant. This confirmed the end of era of pre-poll coalition between BJP and Shiv Sena. Any collaboration would be post poll in the foreseeable future.
The fight becomes interesting if we see the results of the assembly segments that constitute Mumbai North West. BJP and Shiv Sena won 3 assembly segments each in the 2014 Vidhan sabha elections. Sena won Jogeshwari, Dindoshi and Andheri (E) while the BJP won Goregaon, Versova and Andheri (West). Interestingly the 3 seats won by Sena are on the eastern side of the Western railway (WR) suburban line and the 3 seats of the BJP are on the western side. This fits with my theory of BJP influence increasing on the Western side of the WR line from Dahisar to Churchgate with some pockets of Sena influence.
The BJP meanwhile has started snatching areas on the eastern side from the Sena in the BMC elections. The metro railway line is like the horse of the ashwamedh yagya started by BJP in Mumbai. Wherever the metro railway line construction has started, it has helped the BJP.
The cumulative votes of the 2014 Maharashtra Vidhan Sabha point towards a close fight in the Mumbai North West constituency. Going by the numbers, BJP got 2.99 lakh votes and were leading Sena by 32,000 votes. But Sena did not contest the Versova Vidhan sabha as their candidate’s nomination was rejected. Though Sena was never strong in the Versova area, but the overall numbers point to a tight contest in LS 2019.
The results will depend on the candidates fighting the LS 2019 polls from this seat. One option for BJP is the Andheri (W) MLA Ameet Satam, though there is no clarity on who could be the eventual candidate. Sena could repeat sitting MP Gajanan Kirtikar. Kirtikar is old school Sena leader who is not a street smart guy. He has worked in the Reserve Bank of India and was member of Sena’s Sthanik Lokadhikar Samiti (white collar workers union arm). Though final candidate would depend on what the coterie around Uddhav Thackeray decides.
Ex Union minister Gurudas Kamat who was the losing Congress candidate in 2014, passed away recently. Though he was a Congressi, he had a hold among voters having won this seat in 2009. The Congress faces a huge vacuum due to his passing away. My gut feeling says that the Mumbai Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam might shift from Mumbai North to this seat. Nirupam was badly mauled in LS 2014 on the Mumbai North seat, losing by a record margin of 4.4 lakh. Though he is a moron, he might not want to be spanked again. So he might shift to this seat where he has a better chance than Mumbai North. Though overall Congress is an also ran on this seat, going by recent results.
Though Sena has good strength in this constituency, but BJP is gaining with every passing day. The demography is changing with new high rises being built every year. BJP’s success would depend on pulling out the voters from these high rises to the voting booth in April 2019. In April 2014, BJP workers has to plead to this class of voters to vote for the Shiv Sena’s bow and arrow symbol, as each seat would have edged Modi close to the Prime Minister’s post. My gut feeling says that Congress sin’s have yet not washed away in people’s mind. So inspite of high petrol and diesel prices, the support for BJP is very high among the upper middle class, middle class and a section of the poor.
Minor irritants like the MNS could hit the Shiv Sena by eating some of their votes. MNS activists on ground have been active in agitations on the municipal issues and recently in the Congress bandh to oppose fuel price rise. Though as a leader, Raj Thackeray has not been effective but MNS can eat some anti incumbency votes. This would help the BJP and hurt the Shiv Sena and the Congress.
In conclusion, this is a close contest between the BJP and the Shiv Sena. BJP has it’s nose ahead in this fight. BJP has the faces of Modi and Fadnavis to attract voters. A third face in form of a good candidate can help clinch it for BJP. Sena will fight hard to retain this seat, while BJP can gain one seat in Mumbai by winning this seat. So let’s wait for further developments on this seat including the candidates from each party who would contest LS 2019.