Mumbai (The Hindu): The Shiv Sena, which claims to be the flag bearer of interests of Marathi sons of soil, is set to eat into the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Gujarati vote bank, if the two parties decide to fight the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) polls independently.
While Sena leaders deny any special treatment to the community, party banners in Gujarati being put up in Vile Parle or trader associations approaching Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray on demonetisation, indicate a different story. Ghatkopar, Mulund, Vile Parle, Malad, Borivli and parts of south Mumbai have a sizeable Gujarati population.
Over the past few months, several Gujarati leaders, including Hemaraj Shah and Jayanibhai Modi of the NCP, Rajesh Doshi of the BJP, and Bharat Dhanani of the Congress, have joined the Sena. Besides, traders such as Bipin Morani and Hemant Rambhiya too have joined the party.
“Yes, Gujaratis are joining the party and we welcome them; so do north Indians and muslims. They know the Sena is the only party which can give them justice,” said Anil Desai, Sena’s Rajya Sabha MP.
But, according to the BJP, such vote bank politics will not work. “People of Mumbai have decided to vote for development and transparency. They will vote for the BJP, irrespective of the community, caste or sex. We have never played vote bank politics and the Sena should concentrate on development,” said Manoj Kotak, BJP group leader in the BMC.
Mr. Thackeray, in recent party conventions, has stressed that it was the Sena that protected Gujarati traders in the 1992 Mumbai riots. “Had it not been for the Sena, they would have been left with no money. It was Sena activists who protected you,” said Mr. Thackeray in Bandra recently.
According to sources, the party may see inflow of more Guajrati leaders if the Sena decides to go it alone.
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