Congress’s candidate from Mumbai North constituency Urmila Matondkar interacts with supporters during an election campaign for Lok Sabha polls, at Manori Gorai Village in Mumbai. (Source: PTI)

Billionaires and Celebrities Join Slum Dwellers at the Polls in India 

(Bloomberg) --

India’s financial capital goes to the polls on Monday with billionaires, celebrities and slum dwellers among those lining up to elect lawmakers they hope will fix Mumbai’s crumbling and stretched infrastructure.

Elections in the city -- home to Bollywood stars as well as seven of India’s 19 richest people including Mukesh Ambani and Uday Kotak -- often come with a touch of glamour, and this year is no different. Actor Sanjay Dutt joined his sister and two-time former Congress lawmaker Priya Dutt on the campaign trail as she seeks to reclaim a seat she lost in 2014, while actress Urmila Matondkar, also from the opposition Congress party, is making her electoral debut.

Billionaires and Celebrities Join Slum Dwellers at the Polls in India 

Both are trying to contain Prime Minster Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and ally Shiv Sena, which together won all six seats in the city in 2014. For millions of Mumbai voters, the elections again put a spotlight on the city’s perennial problems of overcrowding, unsafe infrastructure, traffic congestion and inadequate housing.

Dutt is challenging the ruling BJP’s sitting Member of Parliament Poonam Mahajan to reclaim the Mumbai North Central seat.

In the city’s south, the fight will be between regional party Shiv Sena’s Arvind Sawant and Congress’ Milind Deora, a former federal minister. Deora has been endorsed by two prominent billionaires -- Mukesh Ambani, Asia’s richest man, and Kotak, the continent’s richest banker. Ambani’s son on Friday though was in the audience listening to the prime minister predict a victory for his alliance.

Billionaires and Celebrities Join Slum Dwellers at the Polls in India 

BJP supporters streamed into a ground at the heart of Mumbai’s financial district on Friday, some singing “Yes, I too am a watchman,” along with the lyrics blasting from loudspeakers that referred to Modi’s characterization of himself as a watchman for the nation, guarding against terrorists and corruption.

The prime minister avoided references to Bollywood in his speech, though he has associated with movie stars on social media and recently did an interview with a famous actor. His praise for drivers of Mumbai’s black and white taxis drew a warm response from the crowd.

India’s largest conglomerates including Reliance Industries Ltd. and the Tata Group, its two main stock markets and its Hindi film industry are all housed in Mumbai. Billionaires who call it home include Mukesh Ambani and Kumar Mangalam Birla, cricketer Sachin Tendulkar and Bollywood superstars Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan. Slums can often be found nestled close to the homes of its rich and famous.

Still, the city’s rising affluence is slowly transforming its skyline with slums, old buildings and industrial areas making way for glass-and-steel high rises and neighborhoods peppered with upmarket bars and restaurants. Residential townships have sprung up and much-needed infrastructure, such as a a new, rapid transit metro, are being put in place.

Billionaires and Celebrities Join Slum Dwellers at the Polls in India 

Including Mumbai, 17 constituencies in the state of Maharashtra will vote Monday, along with 55 more across the country. Over 128 million voters will decide the political fate of 961 candidates in this fourth of seven days of voting.

WHAT TO WATCH:

  • Voting is taking place in 72 seats across nine states
  • Voter turnout in Mumbai was 7.2% as of 9 a.m.
  • Modi to address election rallies on Monday in Jharkhand and West Bengal
  • Congress President Rahul Gandhi to address public meetings in Rajasthan

ELECTION & MARKETS:

  • “Equity market has started to price in the return of the incumbent government, yet we think that a full majority by a political majority is not yet priced in given the weak market breadth,” Societe Generale said in a note on Monday. “The elections are an event risk in the near term, but a non-NDA stable government shouldn’t be destabilizing for the markets beyond a short-term reaction,” the note said referring to the opposition coalition.
  • The rupee is at a cross roads, ANZ Research said in a note. “The general election result has the potential to either amplify the weakness, or push against the seasonal weakness as it did in the previous two elections.”
  • “Handling volatility will be the biggest challenge as the benchmark index is witnessing erratic swings,” Jayant Manglik, president at Religare Broking, said in an email. “Nifty strongly upheld its support around 11,550 last week while hurdle at 11,800 is capping the upside so wait for a decisive break for next directional move.”

IN THE MEDIA:

  • Lok Sabha Elections 2019: A Guide To Phase 4: Bloomberg Quint
  • BJP Could Lose 40 Seats in Uttar Pradesh: The Wire
  • Congress carries assembly poll momentum in Madhya Pradesh, BJP expecting ’wave’ similar to 2014: PTI

LATEST COMMENTS:

  • “What type of nationalism is there in ‘main hoon Modi’ (I am Modi)? What is the meaning of nationalism? Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said. “It means patriotism and love for the country. Who is the country? Its people and their love. If you have affinity only towards yourself, then what type of nationalism is this?”
  • “Our vote is increasing in every phase. The Modi factor was recently at work in the prime minister’s massive road shows in Varanasi and Jharkhand,” said BJP ally and federal minister Ram Vilas Paswan. “More people are joining us. On the other hand, opposition parties have not been able to unite either in Delhi or here in Bihar.”

BLOOMBERG EXCLUSIVES:

ECONOMY:

  • “A new stable government will help attract foreign investor flows after the election-related volatility,” ANZ Research said. “However, a key risk also comes from how the new government will rein in fiscal slippage, with both major parties announcing different income-related benefits if they are voted in”
  • Slackening Consumer Demand Reins in Animal Spirits in India
  • India Jobless Rate Doubles Since 2011 Amid World-Beating Growth
  • RBI Inflation Goals Need to Be Reviewed, India PM’s Adviser Says
  • History Suggests India Rupee Is Set for a Post-Election Hangover

EARLIER STORIES:

  • Private Jets Booked Up Across India to Give Modi Campaign Edge
  • Cash, Booze and Gold: India Seizures Surge Compared to 2014 Vote
  • Modi vs Who? India’s Ruling Party Pushes Presidential Election
  • Young, Angry and ‘Untouchable’: India’s Low-Caste Threat to Modi
  • Tackling Rising Hate Speech in the World’s Biggest Election
  • India’s Gen Z Voters’ Call for 2019 Election: More Jobs, Please

QUICKTAKE:

  • It’s Started! Your Guide to India’s Marathon Election
  • Why Election Goodies Await India’s Struggling Farmers
  • Why India’s Lower Castes Could Hold Key to Election

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