BMC Election 2017: BJP and Shiv Sena might not want to admit it, but they need each other

Bharatiya Janata Party and Shiv Sena are neck and neck in the number of seats won in the BMC election. The BJP picked up a lot more seats than before, but fell short of taking control of the civic affairs, its stated ambition. It is not good news for Devendra Fadnivas,  BJP, Uddhav Thackeray or Shiv Sena.

File image of Devendra Fadnavis and Uddhav Thackeray. PTI

File image of Devendra Fadnavis and Uddhav Thackeray. PTI

To take control of the BMC, the BJP and Shiv Sena would require the support of other political parties which are ideologically, far far apart, even by pretension, making an alliance hard to forge and sustain and leading to a loss of face.

Neither can seek out or persuade the Congress, the third largest party, to back it. If it did, Congress would be eating crow and lose all credibility. MNS was earlier booted by Shiv Sena and now, will possibly be wooed by the BJP.

Having said that, the BJP is set to win the Pune and Nagpur civic bodies and likely emerge as the single largest party in six other municipal corporations. However, what would stick in the party’s throat is the performance in the Mumbai and Thane municipal corporations.

Tie-ups with Shiv Sena, should ‘the art of the possible’ principle work, may require a lot of calisthenics ahead of dealing with the rival-cum-partner in government.

After his good show in the 2014 Assembly elections in which Uddhav Thackeray scooped up 63 seats, he and his party met a stiff challenge from the BJP in the civic elections. It was a no-holds barred verbal assault from both sides and Thackeray may well stiffen his stance within the Cabinet. Unlike elsewhere, Fadnavis sought support for transparency in Mumbai’s administration from, by implication, the opacity of the Sena’s methods, which promoted corruption.

That’s the headline, or the most significant import of the electoral outcome, though what should come across to observers is that Mumbai prefers politics of identity than governance, that poor administration – each pothole on the roads, for instance is a testimony to it – does not matter. The BJP was a partner for the Shiv Sena in civic administration — until the preparatory months before the civic polls — then it became a vocal critic. Just like Sena was of the BJP in the government.

The Shiv Sena has been at the helm in Mumbai for over two decades. The decline of the city and the Shiv Sena's inability to manage and correct is reflective of the party’s focus on their civic bodies as the goose that lays the golden eggs. Losing it amounts to a dismal war chest for future politics. It does not matter that more than half of the annual budget of Rs 3,700 crore, which is meant for development, remains unspent. That is the tragedy of Mumbai. Thane is no different.

During the 1990s, it was the Congress which controlled the BMC. But after the Shiv Sena and BJP formed the government as pre-poll allies in 1995, the fortunes of the civic body changed. In 1997, Sena had 103 corporators, its highest ever, and the BJP, its partner, had 26. Then the Shiv Sena began to slip — to 97 in 2002, to 82 in 2007, and in 2012, to its all-time low of 75 corporators. However, its partnership with the BJP helped it retain its mayoral crown all through those years.

​When Fadnavis went for broke, and told voters a la Narendra Modi in 2014 that each vote for the BJP was a “vote that would reach me”, he apparently did not realise that he was a potential candidate for painting himself into a corner. Should Shiv Sena need some support to have its mayors in Mumbai and Thane, would he approach the BJP? Would other parties like Congress and NCP step in after their traditional contempt for the Shiv Sena’s perceived virulent communalism?

Focusing only on Mumbai and Thane would amount to becoming a victim of a smoke-and-mirrors game because the gains the BJP made elsewhere is spectacular. Nashik, where it was trounced by Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad where the NCP and Congress are being shown their place. Pune, Pimpri-Chinchwad are close to the Sharad Pawar clan.

We are not yet talking of the results of the zilla parishads and panchayat samitis which are totally different from the urban aspirations and requirements. That the cities of Mumbai and Thane seem to prefer the ham-handed and mindlessness in governance is a point of note, though it would be foolish to expect that the BJP, had it won, would have offered a totally new paradigm. The local politicians, who are at the cutting edge, resist reforms which robs them the means for venality.

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Updated Date: Feb 23, 2017 18:17:26 IST

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