Mumbai South Lok Sabha seat has become the centre of attention as we move to the fourth phase of Lok Sabha elections 2019 on 29th April. The six seats of Mumbai are covered in this phase of voting. The fight between current Shiv Sena MP Arvind Sawant and ex MP Milind Deora of Congress garnered national attention when prominent businessmen including Reliance’s Mukesh Ambani endorsed the candidature of Milind Deora.
Mumbai city is fast losing political capital to the suburban district. Mumbai city now boasts of just two Lok Sabha seats (Mumbai South Central and Mumbai South) and just ten (out of thirty-six) assembly constituencies, post the delimitation exercise of 2008. Mumbai South seat used to be won by Congress and BJP alternately in the past by Late Murli Deora and Late Jayawantiben Mehta respectively. The Mumbai South LS seat consists of tony areas like Malabar Hill and Colaba and lower middle class localities like Shivadi, Mumbai Devi, Byculla, Lalbaug etc. Demographics wise the area has a mix of Marathi, Gujarati, Marwari as well as muslims.
The current candidates had squared up in 2014 and Arvind Sawant sailed through in the Modi wave to defeat Milind Deora,
If we consider the assembly segment wise breakup for the Mumbai South LS, the NDA led in four assembly segments while the UPA led in two assembly segments. The NDA enjoyed brute majority in Worli, Shivadi, Malabar Hill and Colaba assembly segments by polling nearly 50% plus votes in all segments. UPA led in the minority dominated Byculla and Mumbadevi assembly segments. MNS had garnered a decent 84,864 votes due to popular MNS candidate Bala Nandgaonkar.
The decimation of Congress further continued in the Maharashtra assembly elections held in Sep-Oct 2014. In the absence of a popular face the Congress garnered a humiliating 1.11 lakh votes in the six assembly segments of Mumbai South. Since all the major parties fought separately, we can add NCP’s 51,331 votes to the Congress tally. AIMIM also stole a significant 41,479 votes from the Congress strongholds of Byculla and Mumbaidevi. In fact Congress finished third in Byculla behind AIMIM and BJP.
The BJP cumulatively won 2.57 lakh votes and won two assembly segments of Malabar Hill and Colaba. The Sena was a close second with 2.06 lakh votes winning the mill land assembly seats of Worli and Shivadi. Congress won the sole seat of Mumbaidevi but the BJP was a close second. Thus the addition of NDA votes nearly reaches 5 lakhs is we include the Akhil Bharatiya Sena (ABS) of don Arun Gawli in the NDA fold (ABS supports NDA in Lok Sabha).
Though this simple mathematics cannot tell us the real picture of this constituency. In the interim five years, BJP and Shiv Sena have had a bitter fight even though they were allies at the centre and the state. The Sena worker’s backlash against Kirit Somaiya in Mumbai North East is well-known. BJP had to replace Kirit Somaiya with Manoj Kotak on Mumbai North East seat (check my analysis for Mumbai North East). Similar backlash is faced by Sena MP Arvind Sawant in Mumbai South from the BJP voters especially the Gujarati and Marwari / Rajasthani voters. Sawant’s comments against BJP and PM Narendra Modi have antagonized the BJP voters. It will be a task for the NDA election managers to mollify the voters.
Based on the current situation, I have worked out a scenario for the Mumbai South seat which I would explain in detail,
- 40% of the votes garnered by the BJP in assembly polls of 2014 (I have considered that election as the benchmark as there were no alliances between major parties then) have been given to the BJP. This is to account for the anger against the Shiv Sena MP Arvind Sawant among the BJP voters. Also since Milind Deora is a marwari himself, there is a likelihood of some Gujarati and Marwari voters preferring him.
- Mumbai South seat has been the focal point of the bitter fight over Mumbai city between the newly formed Maharashtra and Gujarat states around 1960. That schism still exists on this seat. The language wars are not visible in the suburban seats this time.
- MNS had garnered 84,864 votes in the Lok Sabha 2014 and 71,717 votes in the assembly polls. These votes were mainly on account of the candidature of Bala Nandgaonkar, the most respected leader in the MNS. Since the MNS is not fighting the assembly election this time, the Shiv Sena stands to gain a lot. I am giving 70% of the MNS votes to the Sena and 30% to the Congress. If Raj Thackeray is unable to transfer 30% of his votes to the Congress, then he faces a very bleak future.
- The Marathi population in the mill land is likely to back Shiv Sena in huge numbers and this might just ensure an unassailable lead to the Sena. The working class guy Arvind Sawant against rich dynast Milind Deora fight will ensure sympathy for the underdog in the Worli, Shivadi and Byculla constituencies.
- AIMIM had garnered 41,479 votes in the 2014 assembly polls. It’s influence has waned in the last five years and 80% of this vote is likely to shift back to the Congress.
- Voting percentage in Mumbai South was around 48-50% in 2014. Milind Deora has to ensure that the elite from Malabar Hill and Colaba have to turnout for him in huge numbers. Also NDA has to ensure maximum voting in the mill land as they face a challenge of many families going on vacation. Many lower middle class families pack their family to their native for two months during the summer vacations to reduce living costs in Mumbai.
- Take my word as a Mumbaikar that the appeal by Mukesh Ambani to vote for Milind Deora will have negligible effect on the voter sentiments.
- The Metro 3 underground line passing through South Mumbai and the coastal road and MTHL in the vicinity will have a beneficial effect for the NDA. Modi is again the trump card as almost all communities excluding the muslims. Have not heard any overwhelming sentiment against Modi in Mumbai.
In conclusion, the optimistic scenario for Milind Deora of the Congress cannot take him over the line. Mumbai South will face a tough fight but Sena’s Arvind Sawant has his nose in front. And if Mumbai South is being won by the Sena, it will be a 6-0 sweep by the NDA in Mumbai.