One of the reasons for the massive victory of the Shiv Sena in the Lok Sabha elections in Mumbai was the support extended to it by Gujaratis. This was despite an anti-Gujarati editorial carried in party mouthpiece 'Saamna', written by its editor Sanjay Raut. Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray did do damage control. Nevertheless, the edit deeply hurt the Gujarati electorate, triggering fears among many Sena leaders that Gujarati voters might back only BJP candidates.
In South Mumbai, for example, Sena's Arvind Sawant, received solid support from Gujarati voters in Malabar Hill, Mumbadevi, Kalbadevi and other areas where they have sizeable presence.
Said a senior BJP leader: "Gujaratis voted for Sena nominees because their aim was to see Narendra Modi as the prime minister. They swallowed the hurt caused by the 'Saamna' editorial and voted in full strength for the Sena."
The question now being asked is whether this politically and economically significant community will vote for the Sena in the upcoming legislative assembly elections. "If the anti-Gujarati sentiments continue then it will not be surprising if the Gujarati voters turn away from the Sena in the assembly polls," he added.
Acutely, aware of this Uddhav Thackeray is expected to undertake a special campaign to woo Gujarati voters. He will be joined in this exercise by his son, Aditya, who leads the Sena's youth wing, Yuva Sena.
Uddhav's decision to disassociate himself from the controversial edit has assuaged the community's feelings somewhat. But, with a view to ensure the their support, Uddhav and Aditya are likely to contact community leaders.
In fact, Uddhav is expected to adopt an inclusive approach since the votes of every community will be crucial to win the assembly elections. The general expectation is that the Modi effect will extend to the assembly elections.
In fact, the pro-NaMo sentiment may get strengthened in the months to come with the new government at the Centre expected to take a slew of pro-development and pro-people decisions.
Nevertheless, the Sena will go an extra mile to get Gujaratis' support. Most Gujarati-dominated assembly segments like Ghatkopar, Vile Parle, Malad, Kandivli and Borivli are likely to have BJP and Gujarati candidates. Some of them, for example Ghatkopar, are already represented by BJP's Gujarati leaders. It is in other constituencies, where the Sena would like to secure the support of Gujaratis. The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena led by Raj Thackeray is expected to take a strong pro-Marathi stance with a view to corner the Sena. But, Sena leaders are not unduly worried because they are convinced that Marathi voters are politically more alert now and they will not let their votes be divided in the coming polls.