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Fight for a share of Marathi vote

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Mumbai: The real battle this Assembly election is between two regional parties, the Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS). The splintering of the Marathi vote, a significant determinant in poll outcomes, is likely to be the severest in the Mumbai-Thane belt.


More than ever, the division of Marathi vote is central to Congress’ prospects, as was seen in the Lok Sabha elections. The party’s future would be as good as the performance MNS puts up.


The Mumbai-Thane region accounts for 60 of the 288 Assembly seats in Maharashtra. The biggest splitter this season, the MNS, is fielding 49 candidates in this belt. The Sena is fielding 40, while its alliance partner Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is fielding 20.



For the first time, rebellion, which had hitherto plagued the Congress-NCP combine, is set to strike the Sena. The party’s long-standing dominion has been severely threatened in the hotly contested Mahim seat (Dadar before delimitation).


Mahim has been in the eye of the storm lately for creating the star rebel Sada Sarvankar. Having been denied ticket in favour of a rank debutant, TV anchor Adesh Bandekar, the Sena leader walked off to the rival Congress camp in a huff. He is now contesting on Congress ticket. State Industries Minister Narayan Rane, a former Sainik, was the mastermind behind this defection.


Mahim promises a cutthroat contest among Mr. Sarvankar, Mr. Bandekar and Nitin Sardesai of the MNS — all eying the same Marathi vote base.


Mr. Sarvankar’s candidature will be a double-whammy for the Sena in Mahim. The constituency has a sizeable Muslim and Christian population. As a Congress candidate, Mr. Sarvankar will draw votes from these groups in addition to those from his erstwhile Sena support base. His angry followers had stoned the house of senior Sena leader Manohar Joshi over speculation that Mr. Sarvankar would be bypassed for Mr. Joshi’s associate Milind Vaidya. However, Mr. Bandekar made the cut instead.


Still, the impact Mr. Sarvankar’s exit will have remains to be seen. For one, Sena was leading in this segment in the Lok Sabha elections by a good 9000 votes, followed by the Congress, with the MNS coming a close third. This was because of the staggering popularity of and goodwill for the Sena’s four-term MLA Suresh Gambhir, who also enjoys Muslim support. In Mr. Gambhir’s absence, more Sena votes are likely to move to the MNS than was seen in the Lok Sabha elections.


Two, with less than 1,000 votes between the MNS and the Congress in the Lok Sabha elections, the former seems to have a better claim to the Sena votes than Mr. Sarvankar. Three, people say Mr. Sardesai is a strong candidate, while there is hardly any real excitement about the TV anchor.


What might affect the MNS in Mahim is the defection of Raj Thackeray’s close associate Shweta Parulkar to the Sena in July this year. She had contested the Lok Sabha elections and bagged 34,000 votes in this segment.


Congress victory in the Lok Sabha elections and the consolidation of the north Indian and Muslim vote may work in the party’s favour.

(Courtesy: The Hindu)






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