BMC Election 2017: Devendra Fadnavis outwits Shiv Sena in its own game as BJP opts out of mayor's post

Mumbai: The announcement of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis that the BJP has decided to pull out of the race for power in the BMC, thereby paving way for its ally as well as rival the Shiv Sena to retain its bastion, is a shrewd move that hits many birds in a single stone.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. PTI

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. PTI

It pre-empts the Shiv Sena from playing the victim by saying that though it emerged as the single-largest party in the BMC, albeit with just two seats more than the BJP (Sena 84 and BJP 82 in the House of 227 members), the ‘power hungry’ BJP had played the villain. The BJP by giving up its claim to power in the BMC gives the Sena an opportunity to celebrate and continue with managing civic affairs of Mumbai for five more years. It also indicates that the boisterous claims by BJP leaders to wrest power in the BMC were just posturing to make the BMC ‘hard to get’ for the Sena.

By retaining power in the BMC with BJP’s ‘generosity’, Sena’s bargaining power declines in state politics, where it plays the belligerent ally of the BJP. Ever since the Fadnavis government came to power in 2014, Sena ministers have been whining about being slighted by the BJP whether it is for sharing ministerial berths in the cabinet, getting crucial portfolios, political appointments, etc. For the BJP, getting Sena’s support in the BMC would have come at a political price or involved solidarity with Congress, NCP, and other parties.

Further, Fadnavis has said that his party will not run for any post (mayor, deputy mayor, Standing Committee chairperson, Leader of Opposition, etc) in the BMC, thereby giving a free run for the Sena. He also said that BJP corporators will act as ‘watchdogs’ for ‘transparency in civic affairs’, thereby indicating that the BJP will act as the critic as well as a supporter of the Sena in the BMC as per BJP’s whims. It means that what the Sena is doing in state politics — acting as the bitterest critic of BJP policies (like demonetisation, allowing Pakistani cricketers or singers to play in India, etc.) — the BJP will do in the BMC. The only difference will be that, in the state government, the Sena shares power with BJP while the BJP will not share power with the Sena in the BMC.

In the process, the BJP retains its ‘holier than thou’ attitude vis-à-vis Sena. During the poll campaign, BJP leaders including Fadnavis had accused the Sena of misgoverning the BMC and called for transparency in civic affairs. By keeping away from power in the civic body, the BJP can continue with its diatribes against the Sena, keeping the latter on tenterhooks in state politics. Also, the BJP may seek Sena’s support in other civic bodies in the State where the former is short of a majority, thereby rejuvenating its rank and file.

With an eye on the 2019 Assembly elections, the BJP will continue to take a high moral ground by saying that it did not share power with Sena in the BMC. It will come in handy in 2019 if the Sena tries to grow too big for its boots and corner the BJP. It will also be useful to maneuver the Sena into garnering opposition space to tide over anti-incumbency, in case other parties unite against the saffron combine.

While the Sena has a cause for celebration, it will be under scanner by the BJP, which will play the big brother. The BJP will wait for the Sena to slip in governing civic affairs and use it as per its requirement in state politics. It might work out as a quid pro quo between the saffron allies to either damage or support each other, as the situation demands. Either way, the benefit will go to a saffron partner, not a non-saffron political party. Otherwise, in the BMC, the BJP and the Sena were required to seek the support of other parties to capture power.

The ‘All is well that ends well’ also reveals that between BJP and the Sena, there is a tacit understanding of going solo (to expand individual base) or forging an alliance (to make Maharashtra ‘Congress Mukt’) to serve the saffron cause. By giving up its claim, the BJP has also robbed the Sena of an opportunity to focus on becoming a major opposition party in State politics in future.

Here's a list of Mumbai mayors over the last 25 years:

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Published Date: Mar 04, 2017 09:02 pm | Updated Date: Mar 05, 2017 04:10 pm