BJP-SS face challenge to retain all six seats while Congress-NCP hope to open account

In six lok Sabha seats in Greater Mumbai, the Bharatiya Janata Party and Shiv Sena alliance have realised that in the absence of any save unlike 2014 election it is no more a one sided fight. Instead, the saffron alliance faces challenge from the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party alliance in all six seats which were bagged by the former in the last general election riding Modi wave. 

Strong cadre, team work, presence of its rank and file at the booth level and above all power in the India’s richest civic body the Brihan Mumbai Municipal Corporation are positive factors in favour of the saffron alliance. On the other hand, weak party organisation, factionalism, poor presence in the city, disconnect mainly with the first time voters and alienation from the traditional voters are big negatives for the Congress and NCP.

However, Raj Thackeray led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena’s decision not to contest the Lok Sabha poll but to support the Congress-NCP alliance candidates has been a major relief for the later. This is expected to avoid division in the votes which will help the Congress-NCP combine nominees to have a straight fight against the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance candidates.

In South Mumbai, Shiv Sena nominee and sitting MP Arvind Sawant is locked in fierce combat against Congress candidate and former union minister Milind Deora while Shiv Sena’s incumbent MP Rahul Shewale is pitted against Congress veteran Eknath Gaikwad in South Central Mumbai. Daughters of two political stalwarts BJP veteran Pramod Mahajan and Congress leader Sunil Dutt, Poonam and Priya respectively are ones against pitted against each other in North Central Mumbai while Mumbai Regional Congress Committee’s former firebrand chief Sanjay Nirupam is fielded against Shiv Sena MP and former minister Gajanan Kirtikar in North West Mumbai.

After succumbing to the pressure from Shiv Sena, BJP has replaced the sitting MP Kirit Somaiya by the party corporator Manoj Kotak in North East Mumbai against NCP nominee Sanjay Patil. Congress party’s decision to nominate Bollywood actress Urmila Matondkar against BJP MP Gopal Shetty in North Mumbai has made the fight colourful.

Interestingly, Shiv Sena’s Marathi Manoos card or BJP’s nationalism especially against the backdrop of Pulwama attack against CRPF jawans and the subsequent air strikes in the Pak Occupied Kashmir are not coming quite handy for the BJP-Shiv Sena combine to lure the Mumbaikars. Congress-NCP combine is countering the saffron alliance campaign by raking up core issues such as poor state of civic and local amenities, decaying infrastructure, lack of substantial development despite three decade rule of Shiv Sena-BJP in BMC, lack of adequate jobs and rising prices of homes. 

The saffron alliance faces another issue of difficulty in transfer of votes between the two parties as even though the seat sharing arrangement has been worked out sections of both the parties are reluctant to wholeheartedly work for the candidates of respective parties. 

On Congress-NCP part, both the parties lack the necessary organisational build up to take on saffron alliance. 

BJP and Shiv Sena claim to repeat the performance of 2014 election by winning all six seats. However, Congress-NCP hint that they are confident to open account in Greater Mumbai.