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Does a modern Mumbai care for caste & language in polls? Analysts say 'yes'

twitter-logo PTI        Last Updated: April 14, 2019  | 16:33 IST

Mumbai, Apr 14 (PTI) Mumbai might be India's financial nerve centre and a melting pot of culture, customs and fashion, but its voting pattern is still rooted in caste and linguistic considerations, like much of the country, analysts say. The BJP, Congress, Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party and others political parties have their pocket boroughs in the metropolis, several of which are urban spillovers, mirroring their rural constituencies, they point out. Language too plays a part as the city was at the centre of a movement for the creation of Maharashtra state, for Marathi-speaking people, from the erstwhile Bombay state which also comprised parts of current Gujarat. "Ever since it came into being, the city has had its own electoral character, in which caste and religion have had limited roles. However, there has been a drift recently and linguistic politics has made an entry," said Sudheendra Kulkarni of the city-based think-tank Observer Research Foundation. He gave the example of the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena which ran a strident campaign on the basis of Marathi and non-Marathi speaking communities centred around the influx of migrants from north Indian states into the metropolis. "But thankfully, Bollywood, which is like the country's identity card to the rest of the world, has been largely unaffected by such divisive politics. It has given public representatives like Sunil Dutt, who earned the faith of all sorts of voters," Kulkarni opined. Sanjay Nirupam, journalist-turned-politician, who is contesting from the Mumbai North West on a Congress ticket, was of the opinion that a large chunk of Mumbaikars are migrants with rural roots. "These migrants are still connected to their roots. So they simultaneously form community-based habitations in Mumbai as well. Like we find Jain, Marwari, north Indian, Sindhi, Gujarati groups here. These groups develop a collective conscience which drives them for the betterment of the group," Nirupam, a former Lok Sabha MP from the city, said. Former Bombay High Court judge and Janata Dal (S) national general secretary Justice B G Kolse-Patil (retd), however, said winnability was the prime factor for parties. "Be it a metropolis like Mumbai or any other city, all parties and candidates bank on caste and community to further their politics. It is unfortunate. They can go to any extent to woo voters," Justice Patil(retd) said. Grassroots party workers seconded these opinions with several of them saying their parties issued instruction to canvas for respective candidates on the basis of caste, community and language. "I have been told to interact with Gujarati-speaking voters as I am from Gujarat. We have also been told to skip the pipeline area (a Muslim-dominated locality in Kurla) as we might not get much votes there," a BJP booth worker from the Mumbai North East constituency said. A Congress party worker in the constituency said, "Who says elections are fought on caste, community or ethnicity only in rural areas? Mumbai is no different. It is part of India." Amarjeet Mishra, the general secretary of the Mumbai BJP, termed this "customised" electoral pattern as "worthy" and said it helps address a particular group's problems precisely. If leaders or party workers are entrusted to convince voters of their own sect etc, then it really works since both belong to the same group," Mishra claimed. Canvassing on the basis of religion, caste, language and the like are prohibited, with Additional Chief Electoral Officer Dilip Shinde stressing that the Election Commission's enforcing department takes strict action when such incidents are brought to its notice. PTI APM BNM TIR TIR

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