The Shiv Sena-BJP alliance in Maharashtra has yet again swept the civic polls in the state despite the Congress-NCP pre-poll alliance that threatened the supremacy of the saffron brigade.
Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, who assumed office in November 2010, compared the polls with mid-term elections as it was his first big acid test in the state. The results have certainly managed to send the jitters in the Congress rankings as the party is already facing a heap of troubles running the Central government. The performance of the Pawars were not impressive enough as well as it had to bow to the Thackerays.
An elated Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray told reporters in Mumbai, "I thank people for reposing faith in me and my party. Today is a good day. Let me celebrate it. I am overwhelmed. Congress and NCP were united against us, yet we managed the win."
Putting up a brave face the Congress rejected suggestions that Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan should quit for party's debacle in the Maharashtra civic polls.
Prior to the civic polls, Chavan said after the results the Bal Thackeray-led Shiv Sena will become "inconsequential"—a comment that has fell flat right on the face.
As it happened:
3:45pm: Final count in:
Mumbai: SS+BJP: 107, Cong+NCP: 67, MNS: 27, Others: 26
Thane : SS+BJP: 61, Cong+NCP:51, MNS:07, Others: 11
Pimpari-Chinchwad: NCP: 60, Cong: 06, Sena-BJP: 11, MNS: 02, RPI: 01, Others 07
2:40 pm: Shiv Sena- BJP- RPI combine at 106 leads, with 9 leads yet to come in, leaving them tantalisingly short of the 114 required for an absolute majority. However, getting the handful of independents/others to come on board should be no problem at all. Uddhav Thackeray 1, Raj Thackeray 0.
Nagpur: SS+BJP: 42, Cong: 21, NCP: 02, MNS:02, Others: 12
Pune: SS+BJP: 24, Cong: 19 NCP: 44, MNS: 22, Others: 03
Nashik: SS+BJP: 21, Cong: 14, NCP: 20, MNS: 29, Others: 06
2:15 pm: BMC: Shiv Sena-BJP set for new term in BMC, with 104 leads in the 227 member body, with 11 seats still to report. The Shiv Sena has 72 , the BJP 31 and RPI 1.
Raj Thackeray's ambitions were shattered as his party leads in just 26 constituencies . The Congress also fares poorly, with 52 leads. The independents, currently at 24, will now be wooed.
2:00 pm: Shiv Sena-BJP looks to retain BMC. They have 102 gains between them, with 13 constituencies still to report and RPI chipping in with 1 seat. With 22 'others' there will be no need or role for Raj Thackeray. Blow to Congress and NCP — and to Raj Thackeray, who has only 26.
1:36 pm: Shiv Sena member and Mumbai Mayor Shraddha Jadhav wins again.
1:18 pm: 157 out of 227 leads are in, and the Shiv Sena - BJP combine has 75, needing another 39 out of the balance 70 for a majority. Raj Thackeray's 23 leads still might play a role... 'Others' have 13.
1:12 pm: MNS has won all seven seats in the Shiv Sena stronghold of Dadar.
12:32 pm: Leads + wins updates for the BMC: After 126 out of the 227 constituencies reporting. The Congress is ahead in 32, the NCP in 3, the Shiv Sena in 50, BJP in 10 and MNS in 19, others' tally is now 12.
It's the SS-BJP combine that is now accelerating, but 114 still looks difficult. However, they could nick it with independents and without reaching out to the MNS with a begging bowl.
12:23 pm: BMC: We're now beyond the halfway mark, with leads available now from 120 out of the 227 constituencies. The Congress is ahead in 31, the NCP in 3, the Shiv Sena in 46, BJP in 10 and MNS in 19.
MNS' engine seems to be losing steam. What is interesting is that 'others' have climbed to 11, so if the SS-BJP crosses 100, these independents and small parties might come into play.
12:15 pm: BMC: Unless the trends change dramatically, Raj Thackeray is the man of the moment, looking at the leads from 108 out of the 227 constituencies... and the Shiv Sena is picking up steam. But these are still just leads.
The Congress is ahead in 29, the NCP in 4, the Shiv Sena in 40, BJP in 8 and MNS in 18. There are seven 'others'. Based on these trends, Raj Thackeray's MNS is the spoiler and could end up with 40 seats.
What happens to Uddhav Thackeray now if the party finds itself short and if Sena party seniors want to reach out to Raj?
PMC: Meanwhile, in Pune, it looks like the NCP and Congress will have to kiss and make up to control Pune. Big boost for Suresh Kalmadi.
11:52 am: Twitter wisdom: @mojorojo: These elections are like Alien vs Predator. Whoever wins, we lose.
11:50 am: On Twitter: @sardesairajdeep Cong-NCP paying price in Mumbai for not being connected to grassroots in the city. Sena/MNS have cadres.
11:48 am: We've crossed the 1/3rd mark, leads now from 76 out of the 227 constituencies. The Congress is ahead in 20, the NCP in 4, the Shiv Sena in 29, BJP in 5 and MNS in 16.
114 is the magic number to control the BMC — and that cannot be reached by either the Cong-NCP combine or the Shiv Sena-BJP combine if these trends continue.
11: 45 am: Shiv Sena combine leads with 18 seats in Mumbai.
11:41 am: This is what it looks like now, updates now from 69 out of the 227 constituencies, nearing the one-third mark. The Congress is ahead in 18, the NCP in 3, the Shiv Sena in 27, BJP in 5 and MNS in 15. We'll see some see-sawing in the numbers, as these are still leads, not wins.
It's clear that the BJP is a straggler in Mumbai... and that Raj Thackeray's MNS has arrived.
11:33 am: Poll pundit on on IBN 7: Shiv Sainiks have not been happy with the fact that Bal Thackeray has completely left everything to Uddhav Thackeray.
11:31 am: Latest trends now from 61 out of the 227 constituencies. The Congress is ahead in 18, the NCP in 3, the Shiv Sena in 20, BJP in 5 and MNS in 14.
The Congress -NCP combine now leads in 21 and the Shiv Sena-BJP combine leads in 25. Not enough to reach a majority. All roads lead to Raj Thackeray.
11:30 am:Thane trend: SS+BJP 49,Cong+NCP 47,MNS 08, Others 08
11:27 am: Shiv Sena-BJP combine lead with 80 seats
11:23 am: This is what it looks like now, updates now from 58 out of the 227 constituencies. The Congress is ahead in 17, the NCP in 5, the Shiv Sena in 19, BJP in 5 and MNS in 13. Raj Thackeray, bring out the bubbly.
11.18 am: It's still early days, but it's apparent that Raj Thackeray will play a significant role in deciding who controls the BMC. As this is being writtten, the Congress and the Shiv Sena lead in 16 seats each and Raj Thackeray's MNS in 11.
The million-dollar question, then, will be this: who will Raj Thackeray support? The party that he broke away from to create the MNS or his erstwhile enemy, the Congress?