The looming showdown between the BJP and Uddhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sena in the Lok Sabha elections sets the stage for a high-stakes battle that will serve as a litmus test for the crucial Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and State elections. Shiv Sena held sway over India’s financial capital for the past 25 years but now faces a determined BJP, which is pulling out all the stops to seize control of Mumbai, eyeing a clean sweep in both national and local polls, which will be held soon after the LS results. 

In 2019, the unified Shiv Sena and its ally BJP swept the Lok Sabha elections, repeating their success from 2014. Now, the BJP is rolling the dice with factions led by Eknath Shinde of Shiv Sena and Ajit Pawar of NCP. Both Shinde and Pawar have aligned with the BJP, wresting party symbols and names from Uddhav and Sharad Pawar, respectively. 

Despite the BJP’s display of strength, the battle for the city’s six constituencies promises to be fierce, with the opposition vocally pointing out the ruling regime’s shortcomings. The BJP, along with Shinde’s Sena and Ajit Pawar’s NCP, is expected to rely on the charisma of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the city’s infrastructure development. 

“The State and central government’s performance, Prime Minister Modi’s reassuring leadership, and the party’s organisational strength will be the key to the alliance’s success,” said BJP’s Ashish Shelar to businessline. 

“There was no trans-harbour sea link or coastal road to showcase in 2019. New Vande Bharat trains have been launched and suburban railway stations chosen for development. The party has delivered on all its key poll premises: Ram Mandir construction, repeal of Article 370 of the Constitution, and notification of the Citizenship Amendment Act. We are confident because of our performance,” said another BJP functionary 

Candidate Choice 

The BJP has chosen Piyush Goyal as its candidate for Mumbai’s North constituency, replacing Gopal Shetty, who won by a significant margin in 2019. Mihir Kotecha has been named as the candidate for North-East, while the other parties are also yet to announce their candidates. 

Furthermore, the BJP has not yet announced candidates for the North-West, North-Central, South-Central, and South constituencies. 

No cakewalk for BJP 

The BJP-led Mahayuti’s prospects have been bolstered by the defection of several leaders from Uddhav Thackeray’s Sena and the Congress to rival camps. This includes Ravindra Waikar, a close aide of Thackeray who joined the Shinde-led Sena, senior Congress leader Milind Deora, and Baba Siddiqui, another senior Congress leader, who have joined Ajit Pawar’s NCP. 

Moreover, the BJP is expected to form a tacit understanding with Raj Thackeray’s MNS in exchange for support in the upcoming assembly elections later this year. Despite these developments, political commentators believe that the BJP will face challenges in Mumbai and that victory won’t come easily. 

“This election will not be like the previous ones. While the BJP is strong in North and South Mumbai, NCP does not look strong in Mumbai. Sympathy votes are likely for the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena as people have resentment towards the politics of BJP in Maharashtra with multiple issues,” said Abhay Deshpande, a political analyst. 

Local civic issues, including the redevelopment scheme of Dharavi and BMC functioning without an elected body for over two years, could dominate results in certain constituencies in the city. 

“The opposition is not in disarray. It is the Eknath Shinde-Sena-BJP alliance which is in disarray, with their ministers divided on quotas for Marathas and OBC. It is the ruling alliance that is lusting for power by misusing all central agencies. What is the Shinde-BJP government taking credit for? All key projects, such as Airbus C-295 or Foxconn’s manufacturing plant, were pursued when we were in power and now all of them have gone to Gujarat,” said Priyanka Chaturvedi, Shiv Sena (UBT) Rajya Sabha MP.