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To win, Poonam Mahajan will have to walk the extra mile

Wednesday, 23 April 2014 - 8:15am IST | Agency: dna

The Mumbai North-Central constituency, home to top Bollywood stars like Shahrukh Khan, Salman Khan and Ameer Khan, also has a huge population of slum-dwellers and a large number of middle-class voters.

The electoral battle in this sprawling constituency—extending from Bandra to Chandivli—had initially appeared to favour sitting MP Priya Dutt of the Congress, whose principal rival is Poonam Mahajan (BJP).

However, the situation got complicated with the entry of Farhan, son of state Samajwadi Party president Abu Azmi, MLA into the fray. Now there is a fear that Muslim votes, which were expected to favour of Priya because of the enormous goodwill she enjoyed among the community, may get divided between the Congress and the SP.

In-fighting hasn't helped the Congress either. Local MLA Kripashankar Singh almost revolted, but was later mollycoddled by the leadership. Another local legislator, Arif Naseem Khan, too is reported to be miffed at Priya's style of functioning.

Priya is the daughter of late Bollywood actor and Congress MP Sunil Dutt and noted actress Nargis, while Poonam is the daughter of slain BJP leader Pramod Mahajan. The fight here is hence among the daughters of two big personalities and the son of one of the richest politicians in India, who had declared assets worth Rs 124 crore during the assembly polls.

In 2009, Priya defeated BJP candidate, advocate Mahesh Jethmalani, by 1.70 lakh votes.

Priya is banking on the 3.5 lakh Muslim voters in her constituency. "However, Azmi's candidature may dent her prospects. The only silver lining is that Azmi belongs to the Deobandhi sect of Sunni Muslims and so the Barelvi Sunnis may not vote for him," said a senior Congress leader from Bandra.

UP chief minister Akilesh Yadav campaigned for Azmi on Monday and this may have an impact on Muslim voters. But, they fear that by not backing Priya, they may actually end up supporting Narendra Modi.

Incidentally, there was a sizable number of Muslims at Sunday's rally in BKC maidan addressed by Rahul Gandhi.

Priya's chief rival Poonam expects to get north Indian votes because of the Modi wave, and Marathi votes as BJP is allied with Sena. Besides, the MNS has also extended support to her, ensuring that there is no division of Marathi votes.

"We will, therefore, easily overcome the last time deficit of 1.70 votes and also get a sizable lead," said Parag Alwani, local BJP leader.

A political observer said: "Poonam's prospects may have improved, but at the same time she will find it difficult to unseat Priya, who is banking on the support of Muslims, Dalits, Christians and the secular middle class. Poonam will have to walk the extra mile to win," he said.

Total voters–17 lakh
Muslims–3.5 lakh
Marathis–5.5 lakh
North Indians–3 lakh
Christians–1.20 lakh

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