Shiv Sena Chief Uddhav Thackeray’s recent rendezvous with Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin and RJD leader Tejasvi Yadav at a Mumbai public meeting has thrown a fascinating curveball in Shiv Sena’s political saga. This expected twist, defying the legacy set by his father, the late Bal Thackeray, who famously targeted north and south Indians for “usurping” jobs of Maharashtrians in Mumbai, is a sign of the changing times.

After Eknath Shinde’s departure with a chunk of the party, Uddhav Thackeray faces a crucial test in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. Departing from his father’s anti-migrant stance, Uddhav sees migrants from other States as a new support base. Partnering with the INDIA alliance, he aims to leverage allies like Stalin and Yadav to sway migrant votes towards Shiv Sena against the BJP and Sena’s breakaway faction.

Meanwhile, Raj Thackeray finds himself in a tricky spot. While Uddhav never fully embraced his father’s anti-migrant politics, Raj founded the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) in 2006, specifically targeting migrants, particularly from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. As he prepares to join the BJP-led NDA, his party cadre struggles with the idea of seeking votes from the very people they have targeted, even physically attacked, in the past.

Mumbai’s Migrants

Spanning two districts, Mumbai city and Mumbai suburban, the financial capital boasts six Lok Sabha seats: Mumbai South, South-Central, North-Central, North-East, North-West, and Mumbai North.

In many of these seats, migrants hold significant political sway. In the 2011 Census, Mumbai’s urban agglomeration had a population of 23.5 million, with migrants comprising 43.02 per cent of the total population. While Uttar Pradesh accounted for the largest migrant population (41 per cent), Gujarat, Karnataka, Rajasthan, and Bihar also contributed significantly.

Shweta D, a Mumbai resident, rejects the label of “migrant,” stating that after generations in the city, they are now residents and voters. She believes that political parties have manipulated the insider-outsider issue for their gain, emphasising that Mumbai has always welcomed dreamers from all over.

Gujarati votes

Data from the World Population Review shows that Maharashtrians make up about 42 per cent of Mumbai’s population, with Gujaratis accounting for about 19 per cent, leaving the rest from various parts of the country.

In this political landscape, while the BJP has solidified its base among the Gujarati population, the Congress is striving to make inroads. Sharad Pawar’s NCP is also courting migrants to establish a stronger presence in the city.

In the dynamic political arena of Mumbai, the growing influence of migrant voters has become increasingly apparent. This was highlighted when Union Minister Piyush Goyal secured the BJP nomination from Mumbai North. His announcement on X (formerly Twitter) was not just in one language but in four, showcasing the diverse linguistic fabric of Mumbai: English, Hindi, Marathi, and Gujarati. This multilingual approach not only underscores the city’s cosmopolitan character but also reflects the nature of electoral battles in Mumbai.