Shiv Sena tries to woo Gujarati voters in Mumbai ahead of civic polls

Shiv Sena UddhavThackeray

Mumbai : As an attempt to woo the Gujarati population ahead of the 2022 civic polls in Mumbai, the Shiv Sena will hold a convention on February 7, where 21 businessmen from the Gujarati community will join the party.

This will be the second meeting with members of the Gujarati community, after the first one was held on January 10. As many as 21 businessmen from the Gujarati community will join the party on the day of the convention, a senior Sena leader claimed.

Elections to the BMC, nine other civic bodies, 27 zilla parishad and gram panchayats in the state are slated to be held in February 2022. Of them, BMC elections are a matter of prestige for the Shiv Sena and it has been in power in the BMC, the richest civic body in the country, consistently since 1997.

Earlier, the Sena reached out to Mumbai’s Gujarati population, and also inducted nine businessmen from the community into the party during a breakfast event last month that had crunchy fafdas and crispy sweet jalebis on the menu. On the same breakfast plate, there was also a savoury vada pav to indicate that Mumbai’s Marathi and Gujarati communities not just co-exist, but even go well together, and that the Sena can take both along.

The tag line for the event was, “Mumbai ma jalebi na fafda, Uddhav Thackeray aapda (There is jalebi and fafda in Mumbai, Uddhav Thackeray is ours).” For the 54-year-old political party born out of a nativist, anti-migrant agenda, and one that has traditionally targeted wealthy Gujaratis for allegedly using Mumbai as their launch pad without respecting the local residents and their culture, the breakfast event seemed unusual.

The party, after all, had once thrived on the paranoia of Gujaratis wanting to hive off Mumbai from Maharashtra.

However, political compulsions have prompted the Sena to try and court Mumbai’s Gujaratis for a few years now, especially before elections. The vada pav-fafda diplomacy was just the latest such attempt ahead of the 2022 elections to the BMC, considered to be the Sena’s citadel and the nerve centre of its power and influence.

In Mumbai the Gujarati vote, roughly about 17 per cent of the city’s population. Even as the Sena chose to assuage the Gujarati community’s fears by inducting few senior Gujarati community leaders from the BJP, Gujaratis in the city themselves seemed to think that while they continue to be staunch supporters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the community will play a key role in deciding which way their vote swings for the local body polls to be held next year.