Sunday, June 4, 2023

When financial capital encroaches on the territory of political capital

Mumbai, India’s financial capital, has taken center stage in the political arena, exerting its influence on the discourse in New Delhi. The visit to Mumbai by prominent figures from non-BJP parties serves as a clear indication of the importance of the city in national politics, especially in the upcoming 2024 general elections.

The state of Maharashtra, whose capital is Mumbai, holds the second largest number of Lok Sabha seats (48), an important factor for any party or coalition that aspires to form a central government, just behind Uttar Pradesh.

Furthermore, Mumbai is home to Sharad Pawar, an influential figure in national politics. The 80-year-old NCP leader served as the chief minister of Maharashtra four times and held ministerial positions in the cabinets of Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh. Apart from his extensive political career spanning six decades, Pawar’s unique selling point lies in his ability to build rapport with leaders of different parties and ideologies.

In 2019, he experimented with the Maha Vikas Aghadi alliance, uniting warring parties against the BJP. Pawar’s national clout was recently evident during his “resignation drama” when leaders of political parties in India urged him to continue as NCP chief. Pawar is emerging as one of the key faces of opposition unity against the BJP in 2024.

Uddhav Thackeray, another important figure hailing from Mumbai, demands attention for the upcoming elections. Despite leading a regional party, the Shiv Sena (UBS), he has emerged as an anti-BJP force in the country. His decision to break ties with the BJP and form a government with the Congress and the NCP further cemented his anti-BJP credentials. A rebellion within his party sponsored by the BJP in 2022 further intensified the animosity between him and the BJP leadership.

It is because of the influence of these two leaders, Pawar and Thackeray, that many stalwarts from different states and parties have come to Mumbai in recent months. Mamata Banerjee, KC Rao, Nitish Kumar, Arvind Kejriwal, Bhagwant Mann and others have met him to discuss formation of a national front against the BJP. Soon Rahul Gandhi can also meet him.

Historically, Mumbai has given birth to many politicians who have shaped the corridors of power in Delhi. These leaders were either from Mumbai, lived in the city, or spent a significant part of their lives there.

Late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was born in Mumbai, while Morarji Desai, another prime minister, was based in the city. George Fernandez gained national recognition by major trade unions in Mumbai, and even Mahatma Gandhi lived in the city for many years and visited frequently during the freedom struggle. Slain BJP leader Pramod Mahajan was also a resident of Mumbai. Notably, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, lived in a bungalow on Malabar Hill for about ten years until 1946.

(The Bombayfile is published every Saturday where Jitendra Dixit writes about Mumbai’s past and present.)

[Disclaimer: The opinions, beliefs, and views expressed by the various authors and forum participants on this website are personal and do not reflect the opinions, beliefs, and views of ABP News Network Pvt Ltd.]

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