Marathi and Muslim voters will be a key for the Uddhav faction to win in the upcoming BMC election, the BJP criticizes this as additional “appeasement” by Uddhav after he allied with the NCP and INC.
The strategy of Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray)
There is a new vote bank heating up Maharashtra politics as the civic polls in Mumbai get near. In a front-page article published on October 22, Saamana (Uddhav camp’s mouthpiece) claimed that “Marathi Muslims” were backing the Uddhav faction.
In response, The BJP quickly reacted and accused the Uddhav faction of appeasement. Ashish Shelar of the Mumbai BJP criticized Shiv Sena Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray, saying, “They successfully played with words by calling them Marathi Muslims. They want to gather Marathi and Muslim votes.”
Shiv Sena Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray is attempting to be both more “Hindutva” than the rebel Shinde Sena and more “secular” than the BJP. The Uddhav Sena has controlled the prestigious Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) for the past 25 years.
The BMC election will be the first true test of whether voters accept the Sena’s new image, especially given that the BJP is determined to seize control of the civic body. The BJP is in power at both the central and state level. It is important for Uddhav Sena to win the BMC election because Aaditya Thackeray, who is seen as the heir of Shiv Sena, is currently leading the party.
Alliance Partners, Social Equation (Vote bank)
Both the NCP and the Congress have allied with Shiv Sena Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray, but in order for the party to win, it must not only rely on its Marathi vote bank (some of which will be divided between Shinde Sena and Uddhav Sena), but also grow it by focusing on other political bases. The Udhhav camp believes that it could be Muslims.
Muslims make up around 14–16% of Mumbai’s population, compared to the estimated 26–30% Marathi vote bank. They make a total of 40–46% when added together. The BJP will be focusing on its traditional support base of Gujaratis and North Indians. According to statistics, they make up about 18–20% and 17–19% of the population, respectively. Additionally, the BJP will attempt to get some Marathi votes by working with its ally Shinde Sena.
Views of the Muslim population in Mumbai
The Shiv Sena, formerly known for its aggressive Hindutva, has gained support from Muslims. Uddhav Thackeray’s decision to form an alliance with the NCP and Congress and to deny the BJP power in the state following the 2019 Assembly elections resulted in getting support from the community.
The “Marathi Muslim Seva Sangh’s (MMSS)” meeting with Uddhav to express their support for the party prompted Saamana’s report. The group is reportedly active in Mumbai, Konkan, Marathwada, and western Maharashtra, according to the Saamana story.
MMSS president Fakir M Thakur said to the media, “We have pledged our full support to Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray). We were hurt by the way Uddhav Thackeray was forced to resign as chief minister,” he added.
Allegations of the BJP
After Uddhav Thackeray formed an alliance with the NCP and Congress, the BJP asked Uddhav to explain the compromise he took with the Sena’s Hindutva ideology. “Marathi Muslims, have a new formula. This is being done solely to confuse its own members,” a BJP leader said.
Ashish Shelar, a BJP leader from Mumbai, connected it to the rivalry between Shivaji and the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, asking: “Is the Shiv Sena Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray faction aiming to fulfill Aurangzeb’s dream of gaining control of Maharashtra and the Marathi? They don’t care about winning over their base of supporters. They are currently misleading Muslims and Marathi Manoos in order to gain votes” Shelar said.
Response of Uddhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sena faction
According to Uddhav Thackeray, the founder of the Shiv Sena, Bal Thackeray, “believed that every individual who loves and works for the country is a true Indian and the party has never been against any community”.
He has consistently denied charges of Muslim appeasement. Additionally, the Uddhav Sena alleges that the BJP’s stance is a reflection of its own failure to bring together groups across caste and religious boundaries. MPs & MLAs from the Thackeray faction blame BJP for polarizing the whole nation and promoting hate speeches.
According to a senior MP of the Uddhav Sena, “When the Babri Masjid was demolished, many Muslims were upset with the Congress for failing to prevent the BJP’s plans. At the time the Congress was in power in the state and at the center”. As a result, most of the Muslims in Mumbai and Maharashtra supported the Shiv Sena in the subsequent elections, which resulted in Shiv Sena and BJP alliance winning the 1995 Maharashtra Assembly elections, he added.