Gujarat’s new chief minister provided Maharashtra’s regional parties just the parochial edge they might have needed in poll season. Last week, when Anandiben Patel urged traders in Mumbai to leave the congested and filthy financial capital and move to ‘peaceful’ Gujarat, her intent might have been to appeal to her Gujarati brethren, but it triggered a tirade against the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Gujarati ‘asmita’ versus Marathi ‘manoos’ faceoff that the state had struggled to avoid for over 50 years since its creation in 1960 received a very public revival.
Every party in the five-cornered fight is eyeing the dividends it can reap from an electorate polarised along Gujarati versus Marathi lines, especially after the Lok Sabha verdict. Gujaratis make for a sizeable 17 per cent of Mumbai’s population alone. The BJP would hope that Gujaratis, traditionally supporters of the party, will vote for them en masse. That way, Marathi voters, who constitute 23 per cent of the voting population, end up being less of a threat, considering the Marathi vote is expected to get divided between the Shiv Sena and the MNS.