The contest in Mumbai North Central is a replay of 2014 general election where daughters of prominent and deceased politicians fought each other. Poonam Mahajan the daughter of Late Shri Pramod Mahajan and Priya Dutt the daughter of Late Shri Sunil Dutt are contesting from this seat. In 2014, Priya Dutt was a sitting MP while Poonam Mahajan was fighting a Lok Sabha election for the first time. The Modi wave across the country ensured that Poonam Mahajan won with a margin of 1.86 lakh (22% victory margin). Mahajan polled 56.6% of the total votes cast.
The picture changed in a major way in the last five years. Poonam Mahajan who was new to this constituency has since established good contact with most of the communities and localities in her constituency. She is now the National President of the Bhartiya Janata Party Yuva Morcha (BJYM) and has a national presence now. On the other hand Priya Dutt has been sulking for the last 5 years at being sidelined in the Mumbai Congress setup and has stayed away from the ground. Her bete noire Sanjay Nirupam was the Mumbai Congress chief. She declared that she would not fight this Lok Sabha election as she wanted to concentrate on her growing kids.
But she was persuaded by Rahul Gandhi to fight the election and finally she entered the fray. Priya Dutt had been the MP from this seat in 2009. Though she was the only Congress MP in Mumbai to win without MNS vote split in 2009, things have changed in the Mumbai North West constituency in the last ten years. With the BJP and Shiv Sena alliance in place, Poonam Mahajan seems very comfortable now. Though this constituency has a sizeable minority population, the assembly election 2014 and BMC election 2017 results favour the BJP and Shiv Sena alliance. The assembly results cumulated at the Lok sabha constituency level are as follows,
Though these numbers are of Sep 2014 and we cannot collate the votes of BJP+Sena directly as Priya Dutt has some votes of her own, due to goodwill for her late father Sunil Dutt. But the NDA is miles ahead of the UPA on this seat as can be seen. BJP+Shiv Sena+the other independent candidate (later allied with NDA) comes to 4.7 lakh votes. On the other hand, Cong+NCP+MNS+AIMIM comes to 3.56 lakh votes. Though this is just a simple arithmetic and won’t quite materialise. MNS may not have 60,000 voters now and the MNS voters are likely to support Poonam Mahajan more than Priya Dutt.
Following factors will influence the result on this seat,
- The stark contrast in the actions of Poonam Mahajan and Priya Dutt in the last five years ensure that Poonam Mahajan is popular among all the areas of her constituency and among all the communities as well. On the other hand Priya Dutt was never seen in this constituency in the last five years. This was highlighted in the voter interaction on Republic Bharat done by Pradip Bhandari (Jan Ki Baat). Most of the voters especially women voters (including muslim voters) said that they planned to vote for her as she was accessible to them and helped them solves problems in their area. This along with the appeal of Modi can garner huge number of votes.
- BJP had got a lead of 90,000 votes in the Vile Parle assembly constituency in the LS 2014 polls. In the ensuing assembly polls of 2014, the combined NDA lead was 92,000. The ex Congress MLA Krishna Hegde who was a close confidant of Priya Dutt has joined BJP as well.
- The BJP and the Shiv Sena now control most of the votes in the Kalina assembly constituency as the combine won 45% of the votes. Congress once represented by Kripashankar Singh here has lost much of its support base.
- The Shiv Sena and BJP combine won 54% of the votes in Bandra East. This is a Sena bastion as majority population is Marathi due to Government colony, Kalanagar etc. Congress has a chance to consolidate the Muslim voters in this area and grab back the bulk of the 24,000 votes won by AIMIM in the 2014 assembly polls.
- The AIMIM candidate Raja Rahebar Khan got about 15,000 votes in the bypoll to the Bandra East assembly seat, necessiated after the death of Sena MLA. He came third in the contest where the Sena candidate defeated ex Congress leader Narayan Rane. Raja Rahebar Khan joined Congress from AIMIM yesterday (ghar wapasi). So it seems Priya Dutt is trying to consolidate the Muslim vote in Bandra East.
- The NDA combine had won 89,000 votes in Bandra West (60%). This is mainly a Muslim and Christian dominated constituency. Ashish Shelar of BJP has successfully won over a large part of the Christian community. Priya Dutt has a chance to win some of it back.
- Priya Dutt can try to maximise the lead in the Chandivali assembly constituency which is represented by Congress ex-minister Arif Nasim Khan. She has to consolidate the votes wherever possible to stand a chance.
- The NDA combine polled 70,000 votes in Kurla in assembly elections 2014. This is a SC seat so AIMIM had put up a Hindu candidate and stood third behind Sena and BJP with 26,000 votes. NCP got 14,000 votes and Congress stood fifth with 13,000 votes. Priya Dutt can look to consolidate AIMIM and NCP votes in Kurla.
- Infrastructure work like the metro lines (Line 2B, Line 4 and Line 3) are being built-in this LS constituency. Also the coastal road will pass along this constituency. This will benefit the BJP’s Poonam Mahajan in the Lok Sabha 2019 election.
- A big factor across Mumbai and Thane is new high rises and residential complexes being built throughout in last 15 years. The voters in this complexes came out in large numbers in 2014. If the BJP could get the turnout of such voters again in 2019, that would help them get an unassailable lead.
- If the voting percentage crosses 50-55%, then Poonam Mahajan is through easily (2014 voting percentage: 48.6%). BJP should definitely work to ensure that the victory margin is maintained or bettered.
- An important factor would be the other candidates in this seat. If AIMIM, SP or BSP fight this seat then the 20,000 to 50,000 votes polled by them would be a direct loss to Priya Dutt. These parties will have reduced support but would still dent Congress vote.
- There are some imponderables like whether Sena cadres would campaign for Poonam Mahajan or would the faction hit Congress work for Priya Dutt. These factors could affect the winning margin of Poonam Mahajan.
Thus we can conclude that Mumbai North Central seat can be called for Poonam Mahajan of the BJP. She entered the fray five years ago as a novice (she had only fought and lost an assembly election in 2009) but now she has emerged as a leader in her own right. She has nurtured the constituency and ensured “Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas” in this constituency by working for Hindus and Muslims, slum dwellers and highrise residents. Priya Dutt has been caught on the wrong side of public mood against a famous surname fighting elections after staying away from the ground for five years.