MUMBAI: The BJP is making full use of its prominent leaders from North India to campaign for the party-led alliance in Maharashtra for the October 21 assembly, but the Congress is lagging behind its rival on this front.
Well-known BJP leaders from the Hindi belt, including defence minister Rajnath Singh and Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, have addressed poll rallies in Mumbai and its neighbouring areas, which have a sizeable number of North Indian voters.
Former Mumbai Congress president Sanjay Nirupam, a prominent North Indian face of the party in the metropolis, is staying away from campaigning following differences with the leadership over ticket distribution.
Another former Mumbai Congress chief and ex-minister Kripashankar Singh, who, too, has his roots in North India, has left the party.
Besides Singh and Adityanath, several other BJP leaders from the Hindi belt like Manoj Tiwari, Ravi Kishan, Jagdambika Pal and popular Bhojpuri actor Nirahua, among others, have addressed rallies in support of saffron alliance candidates in Mumbai and its adjoining areas.
Uttar Pradesh deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya, appointed co-incharge for the Maharashtra elections, has been camping in the state since the last two months, reviewing and coordinating rallies where North India leaders are main speakers.
On the other hand, the Congress has been able to rope in only Pramod Tiwari, a veteran politician from Uttar Pradesh. The multiple-times MLA is scheduled to be in Mumbai on Friday.
This has left most of the North Indian voters with no other option but to throw their weight behind the BJP, which is ruling the state since 2014.
Vinay Kumar, a hawker who runs a small eatery on a handcart near Ghatkopar station, said usually a majority of North Indians used to be Congress supporters.
"Of late, and especially after the emergence of Narendra Modi on the national scene, they have now shifted their loyalty to the BJP," said Kumar, who is running his small business for the last 20 years.
"You tell me why should I vote for the Congress? Where are their candidates and where are their party leaders? A majority of North Indian leaders have left the Congress.
"Also, no one knows who is the chief ministerial candidate of the Congress-NCP alliance?," he quipped.
BJP spokesperson Prem Shukla said, "Our party has drafted several North Indian leaders as star campaigners, most of them Uttar Pradesh."
North Indian voters who have settled in the metropolis for the last several decades can identity themselves with these BJP leaders, he said.
"The Modi factor has played an important role in bringing North Indian voters into the BJP fold," said Shukla.
Uttar Pradesh BJP spokesperson Shalabh Mani Tripathi, who, along with 250 leaders and supporters, is camping in Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra, exuded confidence about getting support from North Indian voters not only in the metropolis, but in entire Maharashtra.
"Wherever we are going for poll campaigning, a majority of the voters are already aware about the various development works done in the past five years in the state. Voters across sections are quite impressed with the government's performance," Tripathi told PTI.
Congress's prominent North Indian face in the election arena Naseem Khan, however, claimed Hindi-speaking voters were still with his party.
They had been with the Congress and they are going to be loyal with the country's oldest party in this election too, Khan said.
"The fact is that citizens are aware about the tantrums of this (BJP-Sena) coalition government. The BJP faces imminent defeat in this election and therefore, they are using all resources at their command.
"But, ultimately, we are going to win," said Khan, the Congress candidate from the Chandivili seat.