For the best experience, open
on your mobile browser or Download our App.

The Mumbai Story in 2024 is a High-Stakes Battle: Bitterly Contested, Marked by Deep Divisions

Both Sharad Pawar and Uddhav Thackeray want to show Narendra Modi that they know the state better than he does and get back at him for his barbs. Maharashtra is a crucial state, not just in terms of numbers but because of the revenue it generates.
Sharad Pawar (L), Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Uddhav Thackeray. Photos: X

Mumbai: The elections in Maharashtra in 2024 are all about vengeance and nowhere is this more apparent than in Mumbai and its neighbouring districts Thane and Kalyan, which all go to vote on Monday, May 20. This is where the (original) Shiv Sena was at its most powerful and both the segments will be determined to show that they retain their hold.But revenge is in the air.

The Uddhav Thackeray Sena, smarting at being denied the symbol and the status of being the original, is going all out to defeat the candidates of the rebel segment, especially the son of chief minister Eknath Shinde who is standing from Kalyan. Shinde obtained three crucial seats beating off demands from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for three crucial seats. It is contesting a total of 15 seats, of which it is in direct confrontation with the Uddhav Sena in 13. The implications are clear, because both sides want to win the maximum seats and prove they still hold the mantle of the Sena. Thackeray, in his soft-spoken style, is gathering crowds and hitting out at
Shinde and Prime Minister Narendra Modi with aplomb — he is banking on the sympathy vote.

Shinde losing more will undermine his status within the coalition with the BJP; Uddhav Thackeray’s losses will probably cause a severe setback to his political career — all this will have implications for the state level elections later in the year and in elections to the the cash rich and powerful Mumbai municipal elections whenever they are held. Mumbai has only six parliamentary seats but winning them is prestigious and could have long term implications.

Another grudge match is between the two segments of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) which was founded by Sharad Pawar. Pawar, now 83, one of the canniest politicians in the country, has never lost an election, always fighting from Baramati, his pocket borough. This time though, his daughter Supriya Sule contested from there and faced Sunetra Pawar, the wife of Pawar’s nephew Ajit.

Ajit had always been under his uncle’s thumb in the original NCP and smarted at not being made the chief minister in coalition governments. Finally he rebelled and in July 2023, walked away with NCP MLAs — he now claims to have 41 on his side and has been declared the ‘original’ NCP.

But though he is one of the two deputy chief ministers in the Mahayuti government (BJP-Sena-NCP), he remains a distant third in terms of clout. His party got only five seats in the distribution, compared to 15 to the Shinde Sena. Sharad Pawar’s NCP, on the other hand, is contesting ten seats as per a seat sharing formula. If his party performs poorly and worse, if Sule loses, then it will hurt not just him but even Sule’s political career. The stakes are clear and Sharad Pawar is determined to take revenge.

Both Pawar and Thackeray want to show Modi that they know the state better than he does and get back at him for his barbs. 

Modi, in his typical forked-tongue speak, heaps insults on them one day and invites them to join the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) on the other. He had once called Sharad Pawar his political guru and then called his party ‘Naturally Corrupt Party’. Recently, he called Thackeray as running a ‘nakli’ (fake) Sena. 

This may well be the ambition of the BJP’s allies too. The national party is fighting in 28 seats — it won 23 the last time and the state is crucial for its all India numbers — it would like to better that record this time round. Maharashtra is a crucial state, not just in terms of numbers but because of the revenue it generates.  

If it does, that would be bad news for its allies. That would give it an upper hand in all future negotiations, especially for the state assembly elections. A strong BJP would mean not just more seats for the party in the state elections, but also possibly all the key positions in the government, should it win a majority. This would mean that Shinde and Ajit Pawar would be relegated to a minor status, something that they would not want.

After Monday, all the elections in the state would be done. Each party is pulling out all stops. Interestingly, both the BJP and the INDIA partners showed a picture of solidarity. Modi smiled on the dais with Shinde, with a dour Ajit Pawar and his own partisan Devendra Fadnavis relegated on the sidelines. Arvind Kejriwal and Thackeray held hands together. Congress workers are on the streets for Sena (Uddhav) candidates. Muslims are backing Thackeray in large numbers. Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) workers, reports say, are demotivated. Will they ensure that not just the BJP but also Shinde Sena candidates win? Most of all, who will get their revenge on their friends turned enemies?

Make a contribution to Independent Journalism
facebook twitter