The moment has arrived and the Bharatiya Janata Party has to decide between two choices: One, seek power in the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, where it won the second place at the hustings, or push for implementing the principle of transparency in municipal administration.
Transparency was Devendra Fadnavis’s campaign theme which took BJP to its all-time high presence in the civic body with 82 corporators to the Shiv Sena's 84. Transparency cannot be ensured if it becomes the post-poll ally of the Shiv Sena which has fine-tuned the art of handling the goose that lays the golden eggs.
The office of the mayor, and other positions, with which the city coffers can be easily robbed by short-changing the citizens, are indeed tempting for any politician. Politicians, as we know, pretend to be public servants but sub-serve their personal interests to build tiny empires as stepping stones to bigger opportunities elsewhere.
Therefore, if the BJP is true to its word given in such a shrill manner by Fadnavis during the campaign where the Sena was called a party of extortionists, and by an MP that it was no less than a mafia, it should stay clear of the mayor’s post and the politics of numbers that require to be played for it.
Imagine a situation where the Shiv Sena and the BJP together to constitute a strength of 166 in a general body of 227. There would be a truncated Opposition of a rainbow of smaller groups of 56. Of the five Independents, most have thrown in their lot with the Shiv Sena. In sum, the MCGM would thus have an Opposition that would hardly be a check on a huge majority.
The Opposition would thus be only noisy, grab headlines, but not derail any mischief. The BJP has to realise that if it were a partner in power, Sena could well treat it like the BJP deals with the Sena in the Maharashtra government. The compliment is sure to be returned by the Shiv Sena which is smarting under the fact that it gets no respect from BJP.
Mumbai — like any other city — craves transparency but has not got it since the olden days of Phirozeshah Mehta when the founding fathers of the city were institution builders and concerned citizens than politicians. If transparency were really the intent, the BJP owes it to the city to honour its word. There cannot be any other interpretation of the mandate.
It is a facile, even facetious, argument in political circles every time a fractured mandate emerges, that such outcomes imply voters wanted the rivals to team up. Such rationale is self-serving and dishonest. No city, certainly as large as Mumbai, votes in a concert to bring the two rivals together. It is a coincidence. Nothing else.
Those who voted for the Sena wanted it to take charge of the civic body. Those who preferred the BJP on the ballot desired that it should replace the broken Sena-BJP alliance of some vintage and improve the city’s condition. There is no such thing as strategic voting as is read into it. Seeing a different voter intent than what is plainly manifest is a disservice to the voters, especially this time when more of them came out to vote.
It is just that in a first-past-the-post system, the party, or its candidate, can get elected even by a whisker of a single vote. A tie, as was seen in one South Mumbai ward does not imply that the voters wanted both the candidates, Surendra Bagalkar of the Sena, and Atul Shah of the BJP to together represent the ward in the civic body.
Therefore, it is better for the BJP if it were to be entertaining any thoughts contriving a compatibility between its former ally and then rival to jettison it and do the right thing by the city. With Congress and other parties set against the Sena, it had better lead a robust opposition. How Sena, with its small lead over BJP, manages to get the mayorship is the Sena’s headache.
It needn’t be the BJP’s. It had better settle for finding itself in the role of an Opposition party and call out the Sena for every misdemeanour in civic management. BJP, as a past partner, very well knows how that party functions and how it – in BJP’s words, ‘extorts’, and operates like a ‘mafia’ – and should be able to corner it. The city may benefit.
Updated Date: Feb 26, 2017 11:25 AM