India’s richest man endorsed one candidate. He lost.

Not this time.
Not this time.
Image: REUTERS/Punit Paranjpe
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

India’s wealthiest man must have faced a rare disappointment today (May 23).

Mumbai South candidate Milind Deora has lost. He is the only politician who Mukesh Ambani openly endorsed for the parliamentary election, a rare move by the prominent Indian businessman.

Deora contested from the South Mumbai constituency for the Indian National Congress, India’s primary opposition party, which is projected to face a crushing defeat against the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

Arvind Sawant, a candidate from the BJP ally the Shiv Sena, beat Deora with a lead of 74,000 votes. This loss was part of the ruling alliance’s city-wide sweep, where all six seats in the financial capital saw NDA victories.

Ambani made the endorsement last month via a two-minute video in which he said that Deora had “in-depth knowledge of social, economic, and cultural ecosystem” of South Mumbai. Electing him, Ambani said, would ensure that “micro-enterprises and large businesses can thrive” in the city.

Deora’s campaign centred on problems of Mumbai’s infrastructure, housing, and transportation, promising uplift for the city. He previously served as a minister of state with the ministry of communications and information technology, as well as with the ministry of shipping. Politics is a family tradition for him; his father, Murli Deora, represented South Mumbai for three terms starting in 1984.

The election didn’t go smoothly for Deora, even before his loss was announced. He is one of many to have complained during this election about security lapses around Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). On May 21, he even submitted a complaint to the chief electoral officer of Maharashtra about “suspicious movements of few persons and/or vehicles” around the voting machines.

But Ambani may not be too torn up today, Deora’s loss aside.

The Reliance group, which the industrialist owns, has been widely perceived by media reports to have benefitted from Modi’s rule. Shortly after the endorsement, a spokesperson for the Shiv Sena even said it was “surprising” that Ambani had supported Deora given “the ties he has with Modi,” Reuters reported.

Read Quartz’s coverage of the 2019 Indian general election here.