The Bharatiya Janata Party's strategy of capitalising on the Modi wave to put up a good show in the assembly elections seems to have hit a roadblock. The party is worried about the impact of Shiv Sena organ's criticism of Gujaratis on the fortunes of the saffron alliance in urban centres like Mumbai.
Despite Sena president Uddhav Thackeray and his son and Yuva Sena head Aaditya distancing themselves from the May 1 Saamna editorial, BJP leaders, including Gujaratis, claim that there is a lingering anger among the community, which may singe the Sena in the state polls.
"People are talking about it in bitter terms. The Sena may be in for trouble in Gujarati-dominated areas," said a senior BJP leader, who hails from a suburb which has a strong Gujarati presence.
He added that the assembly segments like Goregaon, Jogeshwari, Dahisar, Vile Parle and Mumbadevi, in addition to areas like Thane, had a significant proportion of Gujarati speakers, which could tip the scales in the electoral battle.
Another state BJP functionary said Gujarati voters are angry. "If anyone feels that hate speech against any community can get them votes, one can only wish them well," he said, adding that mere clarifications cannot wipe out bitterness and suspicion.
He claimed that despite an anti-Sena stand, Gujaratis were likely to back the BJP, though a poor show by Sena could affect the saffron alliance as a whole.
At the same time, some BJP leaders admitted to unease among Maharashtrians over cultural assertion by Gujaratis such as "vegetarian towers" in Maharashtrian-dominated pockets where meat-eating Maharashtrians cannot purchase flats, and calls to shift out meat and fish markets from such neighborhoods.
"There is tremendous anger in the society and the Sena may feel its repercussions," said a BJP leader, who is a Gujarati, adding that however, Uddhav and Aaditya's clarifications had helped cool matters. "We Gujaratis are never vicious, the anger can be diluted before the assembly polls."