In Part II of this series on final prediction on the winner and victory margin of the assembly seats in Mumbai, I cover the six assembly seats that fall under the Mumbai North Central Lok Sabha constituency. This Lok Sabha seat was won by Poonam Mahajan of the BJP for a second consecutive time. She defeated former MP Priya Dutt of the Congress, in a rematch of 2014. Three assembly segments of Vile Parle, Chandivali and Bandra West played a key part in the victory of Poonam Mahajan by approximately 1.3 lakh votes.
Mumbai North Central:
The Mumbai North Central Lok Sabha constituency spans the western suburbs of Vile Parle, Santaruz, Khar, Bandra and the eastern suburbs of Kurla (includes BKC) and Chandivali (includes parts of Powai). This seat is dominated by the Muslims voters, Scheduled caste voters, Hindi speaking voters and a fair number of Marathi speaking and Christian voters. This is demographically the toughest seats for the NDA, but Poonam Mahajan has managed to win the seat for the second time in 2019. Following are the six assembly seats under the Mumbai North Central Lok Sabha seat,
- Vile Parle: Vile Parle was a Sena stronghold till the early 2000s but after the Sena lost this assembly seat in 2004 and again in 2009 post delimitation, the BJP sensed it’s opportunity and made a move in the 2014 assembly election. Parag Alvani of the BJP defeated Shashikant Patkar of the Shiv Sena by a margin of 32,435 votes. The sitting MLA Krishna Hegde of the Congress was relegated to the third position and got 24,191 votes. The addition of BJP and Sena votes comes to 1,16,000 votes. This assembly seat has become a bastion of the BJP. Krishna Hegde, who is the son in law of Sena leader and ex-MLA from this seat Ramesh Prabhoo; himself joined the BJP in 2017. The Vile Parle seat is dominated by predominantly upper middle class Marathi and Gujarati voters. There are a fair number of Hindi speaking voters as well as Christians and Muslims. The contest this time is between sitting MLA Parag Alvani (BJP) and Jayanti Siroya of the Congress. Juilee Shende of the MNS is in the fray but unlikely to make an impact. Parag Alvani of the BJP should win this seat by a margin of 70,000-75,000 votes. (LS 2019 margin for NDA: 73,229 votes)
- Chandivali: Chandivali is an interesting seat as it has a mixture of slums and high rises (like Nahar Amrit Shakti complex and parts of Powai). The slums are dominated by Muslim and Hindi speaking Hindu voters, who have been the mainstay of MLA and ex minister Arif Naseem Khan. But the coming up of high rises in the last 10 years and these high-rise voters becoming politically aware (post the rise of Modi) has made the fight interesting. Poonam Mahajan got a lead of 27,255 votes from Chandivali in Lok Sabha 2019. But Naseem Khan who has his own popularity and following in this area, reportedly did not work for Priya Dutt. The contest this time is between Naseem Khan and Dilip Lande of the Sena. The vote katuas in the field include MNS, the VBA and AIMIM twins who have both fielded Muslim candidates. Prima facie this should be an easy win for the Sena. But Naseem Khan’s popularity, the presence of vote katua parties and the question mark over the high-rise voters turning out for the Sena candidate; make it an interesting fight. I am giving this seat to Dilip Lande of the Shiv Sena with a margin of 12,000-17,000 votes. (LS 2019 margin for NDA: 27,255 votes)
- Kurla: The Kurla assembly is a reserved seat and was won by Milind Kamble of the NCP in 2009. It was part of the efforts put by Sharad Pawar to expand the NCP in the greater Konkan area (Mumbai, Thane and Konkan). But in 2014, Sena’s Mangesh Kudalkar won this seat defeating the BJP candidate by a margin of 12,679 votes. The BJP probably fought on this seat for the first time. Milind Kamble stood fourth with a paltry 14,194 seats. The third place was taken by Avinash Barve of the AIMIM with 25,741 votes. The Sena and BJP together got 52.6% of the total votes polled. The decimation of the NCP points out to the reverses suffered by the party, after the BJP fortunes started shining. In the LS 2019, Poonam Mahajan got a small lead of around 5,000 votes. There were murmurs that the Sena did not campaign for Mahajan. Also AIMIM was not in the fray in the Lok Sabha polls. The Kurla assembly seat is dominated by Muslims and Scheduled caste voters, with a fair number of Marathi Hindu voters. This time Mangesh Kudalkar and Milind Kamble are again in the fray, along with MNS, BSP and the AIMIM candidates. The result will depend on whether the AIMIM’s experiment of putting up a Hindu Scheduled caste candidate (forced decision as this is a SC reserved seat) works like in 2014. Mangesh Kudalkar of the Sena should retain this seat by a margin of 12,000-20,000 votes. (LS 2019 margin for NDA: 5,241 votes)
- Kalina: The Kalina seat used to be the fiefdom of the ex Congress leader and former deputy home minister of the state, Kripashankar Singh. He lost this seat in the 2014 assembly polls, following allegations of corruption scandals involving him. Sena’s Sanjay Potnis won the seat by a slender margin of 1,297 votes against Amarjeet Singh of the BJP. Kripa stood third followed by Kaptan Malik (Nawab Malik’s brother) of the NCP. The seat dominated by Hindi speaking voters has since deserted the Congress. BJP were the rightful claimants of this seat but a narrow loss in 2014 ruined their chances of staking claim to this assembly seat. Poonam Mahajan got a slender lead of 9,483 votes in the LS 2019 election. The contest this time is between Sanjay Potnis of the Shiv Sena, George Abraham of the Congress and Sanjay Turde of the MNS. This seat has a good number of Christians as well as Marathi speaking voters. The BSP, SP, VBA and AIMIM are also in the fray and are detrimental for the chances of the Congress candidate. With Kripashankar now backing the NDA candidate, Sanjay Potnis of the Shiv Sena should win this seat with a margin of 15,000-20,000 votes. (LS 2019 margin for NDA: 9,483 votes)
- Bandra East: This assembly seat contains the Thackeray’s residence of Matoshree but the seat was always with the Congress. The Sena finally managed to win the seat in 2009 and 2014 via Prakash “Bala” Sawant. His death led to the by-poll in 2015 in which his wife Trupti Sawant rode a sympathy wave and beat Congress veteran Narayan Rane (Rane has since left the Congress). Interestingly in the Lok Sabha election of 2019, Priya Dutt took a surprise lead of 1,276 votes over Poonam Mahajan. Local leader Raja Rehbar Khan who had fought the 2014 assembly (and the 2015 bypoll) on an AIMIM ticket and got a handsome 24,000 odd votes, joined the Congress just before the Lok Sabha election. He has a following of his own and this has tightened the race for the assembly election of 2019. The Congress has fielded Zeeshan the son of senior leader and ex-MLA from Bandra West Ziauddin “Baba” Siddiqui. The Sena replaced their sitting MLA and fielded Mumbai mayor Principal Vishwanath Mahadeshwar. To make matters worse for the Sena, the current MLA Trupti Sawant has rebelled and is fighting as an independent. Mahadeshwar is not exactly popular in his current stint of the mayor of Mumbai and the rebellion of Sawant has added to the worries of the Sena. Bandra East is dominated by Marathi voters (Government Colony, Kalanagar etc) and Muslim voters (Behrampada, Bharatnagar in BKC etc.). The presence of muslim candidates from VBA, Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) and the AIMIM is a minor irritant for the Congress. Similarly the MNS candidate is an irritant for the Sena. In short this is a tight race and I am keeping the Shiv Sena ahead just because of the excitement in the cadre due to Uddhav’s son entering the electoral battle (from Worli). Since the Thackeray’s live in this constituency, this event will energize the Sena cadre and voters in this area too. I predict a cliffhanger with Sena in front by a whisker. The victory margin of the winning candidate will be 5,000-10,000 votes. (LS 2019 margin for UPA: 1,276 votes)
- Bandra West: This assembly constituency was a Congress stronghold due to a large number of Muslim and Christian voters living in this high profile area. This area also has a lot of upper middle class and rich Hindu voters. This elite group of voters was also co-opted by the Late Sunil Dutt. The ex-Congress MLA Ziauddin “Baba” Siddiqui is a trusted follower of the Late Sunil Dutt and later of Priya Dutt. In the 2009 assembly election, Baba Siddiqui defeated Ashish Shelar by a slender margin of 1,691 votes. Shelar used the next five years to increase his connect with the various Advanced Locality Management (ALM) groups formed by the residential societies in the area. He also wooed the Christian voters, who had started feeling that the Congress pandered more to the muslim voters. The result of this outreach was visible in the 2014 assembly election when Ashish Shelar defeated Baba Siddiqui by a margin of 26,911 votes. This was despite the Sena fighting separately and getting 14,156 votes. In the last five years, the team of Poonam Mahajan and Ashish Shelar has further increased the outreach to all sections of the society. In the LS 2019 polls, Poonam Mahajan led by reduced margin of 15,585 votes over Priya Dutt. In this election, Ashish Shelar (BJP) is pitted against corporator Asif Zakaria of the Congress. The VBA has a muslim candidate but wont make much of a dent. I predict that Ashish Shelar of the BJP will win this seat because of his enhanced stature as a cabinet minister in the Fadnavis government, with a margin of 20,000-25,000 votes. (LS 2019 margin for NDA: 15,585)
In conclusion, the NDA seems to be winning five out of the six assembly seats. I am putting the Shiv Sena marginally ahead in the tight race for the sixth seat viz. Bandra East. Overall, this would be a good performance by the NDA and especially the Shiv Sena who are fighting on four out of the six seats.