Shiv Sena turns to Gujaratis in Mumbai with a foody slogan for the 2022 BMC election

Published : January 08, 2021 13:46 IST

Maharashtra Chief Minister and Shiv Sena supremo Uddhav Thackeray. Photo: REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas

A view of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), also known as the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) - the civic body that governs the city of Mumbai and is India's richest municipal organization. Photo: Shashi Ashiwal

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) election in 2022 is expected to be a close fight with all political parties battling to get a majority in the country’s richest municipal corporation. Given the BMC’s annual budget of Rs.33,000 crore, one can expect parties to pull out all the stops in their campaigns.

One of the Shiv Sena’s first steps has been to identify voters who are likely to vote as a group, and it has zoomed in on the Gujarati community. For long, the community has leaned towards the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Largely engaged in commerce, it feels a sense of affinity with the BJP, which has always been mindful of trading and business concerns in its policy making.

The party has organised a meeting with the community on January 10 and plans to launch one of its election slogans on the occasion: ‘Mumbai ma jalebi ne fafda, Uddhav Thackeray aapda (‘In Mumbai, we have jalebi and fafda, and our Udhhav Thackeray’). The slogan attempts to make the connection between the favourite Gujarati breakfast of jalebis and fafda – gram flour paste with spices fried into long strips – besides the ties between Thackeray and Mumbai, and Mumbai and Gujaratis. It is a we-are-one-big-happy-family sort of approach that the Sena’s ‘Mission Gujarati’ is trying in order to turn Gujaratis living in Mumbai into Sena voters.

In the past, both Gujaratis and South Indians have felt the ire of the Shiv Sena, who grudged them their hard work and success by blaming them for the poverty of local Maharashtrians. Businesses of these communities used to pay protection money to the party until about 20 years ago.

However, everything changed when Hindutva burst upon the scene and new battle lines were drawn. The Shiv Sena saw Gujaratis and South Indians as Hindu and they, in turn, saw it as the protector of their religion. Of course, the BJP took first place as the champions of Hindutva and it is this position that the Sena is seeking to nudge the BJP out of.

The Shiv Sena has ruled the BMC for over two decades and the BJP is desperate to make more inroads. At present the Sena has 97 seats and the BJP 82 in the 227-seat BMC, and the BJP is keen on winning more seats not just for political power but also to get back at its erstwhile partner. The two broke off a three-decade partnership following disagreements after the 2019 Maharashtra Assembly elections, which led to the Sena joining forces with the Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress.

Feeding large crowds brought in to attend election rallies is an old tactic of all parties, but to woo a community with an election slogan – that’s a new one. Will wooing voters through their taste buds make the difference?

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