Raj Thackeray finds support in Mumbai's Muslims
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Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) may have ruffled many feathers with its anti-North Indian campaign, but has found support in Mumbai's Muslim community.
The growing support for the party in the megapolis's Muslim-dominated areas like Umerkhadi and Dongri, is sure to give the ruling Congress-NCP a hard time during elections. The Muslim-dominated areas saw a lower voter turnout during last year's civic body elections.
More than 2000 Muslims have enrolled as party activists in the last 3-4 months, said MNS Vibhag Pramukh (unit leader), Virendra Patil, of the newly formed Mumbadevi assembly constituency after delimitation.
Mumbadevi comprises areas like Dongri, Umerkhadi and Bhendi Bazar with over 70 per cent of the population being Muslim.
Disillusioned with the Congress, NCP and SP, Muslims are finding MNS as an alternative, Patil said. "Besides, our activists help locals in every possible way by organising cleanliness drives among other things," he said.
"Of the 65 per cent of Muslims in Umerkhadi, a majority of them hail from Konkan. They support Raj Thackeray's stand that priority should be given to locals in jobs," he added.
Patil said he was a candidate in Municipal Ward Number 221 (Umerkhadi) in last year's election and finished second. "We have the grass-root support and hope to do very well in the forthcoming elections," he added. In municipal elections, MNS bagged 7300 votes in six wards of Mumbadevi assembly segment, he said.
"Our votes will increase three times in the next Lok Sabha and assembly polls," he said. Zakir Habia, MNS Shakha (divisional) President of Ward Number 220, said the party was not communal.
"Rajsaheb says locals should be given priority in Maharashtra. If the burgeoning migrant population does not stop, locals will have no alternative but to go around with a begging bowl," Habia, a scrap dealer, said.