Thanks to its late charge, BJP on Thursday convincingly demonstrated to its one-time ally and now rival Shiv Sena that it is a force to be reckoned with a tally of 82 corporators against Shiv Sena's 84. Completely overturning the trend that was seen early morning when Shiv Sena was racing ahead like a marauding bull, the second half totally belonged to the BJP when it almost overtook the Shiv Sena.
Ahead of the civic polls, the discourse between the two former allies went into rough weather resulting in the dissolving of an alliance that was over 20 years old. This election was indeed a 'do-or-die' situation for the Shiv Sena, particularly its chief Uddhav Thackeray.
He had called off a saffron alliance with the BJP that had stood the test of time — a period in which the city witnessed its worst natural tragedy, some of its worst terrorist attacks and so on. But during the Maharashtra Assembly elections of 2014, the Shiv Sena decided to go alone and saw 63 of its candidates elected to the Assembly.
The performance in the Maharashtra state poll gave a filip to Thackeray's leadership and impatience among party ranks grew increasingly. There has been a lot of pressure on Thackeray from Sena leaders and cadre members about the perceived repeated humiliations the party has been subjected to by the BJP and questions have been raised about why the Sena had continued to stick by the BJP in spite of it all.
After entering an alliance with the BJP in 1997, the Sena's numbers in the BMC have been on the decline as portrayed on the graph below:
Things came to such a pass that Thackeray's leadership was being clandestinely questioned within the party.
And on 26 January, Thackeray announced the dissolution of the alliance and it was then that he told his inner circle that the party was in a 'do-or-die' situation and the decision was taken to put the party's appeal to the test and not his own leadership, as was widely suspected.
As it turned out, this election was the first in over 25 years to a feature a voter turnout above 50 percent. In fact, this year's voter turnout eclipsed the 2012 figure by a whole 11 percent. And all of this was despite the fact that the number of names that went missing from voter lists was huge — 12 lakh.
In 2012, the Shiv Sena had 75 corporators and picked up 10,07,000 votes, while the MNS had 28 seats and had picked up an astonishing 9,50,000 votes. This time around, the MNS was nowhere to be seen and it had to stay content with a paltry seven seats. What's clear is that the votes that went the MNS' way last time, have come back to the Shiv Sena. However, in order to achieve the magic figure of 114 seats (in order to have a majority), the Sena will either have to go for a post-poll alliance with the BJP or take support from the Congress to govern the civic body.
Congress won 31 seats this year which is a drastic fall from 52 in 2012. In a scenario, if Congress agrees to back the Shiv Sena, the number will reach 115 putting Shiv Sena in the driver's seat while Congress will play the role of a kingmaker.
BJP's astonishing leap towards the end of the counting has surely humbled the Shiv Sena as Thackeray till last week was claiming to be the 'boss' of Mumbai. From 31 seats last year, the BJP tally has already reached 82 while counting was still on in one seat. The BJP trajectory is a clear indication that the Mumbaikars not only gave a thumbs up to the party but also to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis who was the face of the party in this round of civic poll.
Shiv Sena has little to rejoice as a rejuvenated BJP under Fadnavis has swept polls also in all other prominent civic bodies like Pune, Nashik, Latur and Nagpur. With the verdict abundantly clear, it would be interesting to see if Thackeray would carry out his threat of pulling out of the state government in Maharashtra although political acumen suggests that it would be a disastrous move.
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Updated Date: Feb 23, 2017 19:26:19 IST