BMC Election 2017: Will Shiv Sena bite the bullet and come out of BJP's shadow?

The fractured mandate in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) election has made allies-turned-rivals Shiv Sena and BJP stake claim to power in the civic body and speculations are rife over the permutation and combination of elected members of various political parties for alignment to reach the figure of 114 in the House of 227. The moot question is whether the Sena will bite the bullet and come out of the BJP's shadow cast over it?

File image of Devendra Fadnavis and Uddhav Thackeray. PTI

Devendra Fadnavis and Uddhav Thackeray. File photo. PTI

Sena emerged as the single largest party with 84 seats, but the BJP is close behind with 82 seats and its leaders have already staked claim to take charge of the BMC by seeking support of other parties. The Sena leadership too has stated that it would assume office being the single-largest and garnered support of three more members, taking its tally to 87. There is a possibility of either the Sena or the BJP coming to power by keeping each other out and forming an alliance with other parties/Independents. There is also a strong possibility of the Sena and the BJP coming together for a post-poll alliance.

The mudslinging by Sena and BJP leaders during the poll campaign has created bitterness between the saffron partners, but during the high decibel diatribes, the Sena and the BJP emerged as the most eloquent and organised critics of each other. The BJP hijacked Opposition space by lambasting the misgovernance of the BMC by the Sena, while the Sena criticised policies of the state and central governments ruled by the BJP. Ironically, the saffron parties continued with their alliance in the state and central governments, indicating a tacit mutual understanding of occupying the Opposition space to edge out parties like the Congress and the NCP to take care of the anti-incumbency sentiments.

After the BMC polls, the BJP is euphoric, while the Sena's situation is apocalyptic. The Sena has the option of sacrificing power in the BMC, pullout from its alliance with the BJP in the state and central governments to sit in the Opposition. By doing so, it would enhance its image of being the voice of anti-incumbency sentiments in the state politics and play the victim to consolidate itself vis a vis the BJP as well as the Congress and the NCP. Over the next couple of years, the Sena can focus on organisational build up and emerge as the main Opposition party in the Assembly polls in 2019. As such, after the 2014 Modi wave there is a vacuum, with the Opposition space not being effectively occupied by mainstream parties like the Congress and the NCP. It will be difficult but not impossible, but will the Sena do it? It would require nerves of steel.

It would be difficult for the Sena to break all ties with the BJP and sacrifice power in the state and central governments, as a lot is at stake. It would lose its power centre, the BMC, which governs the country's financial capital and is the richest municipal corporation in the country. Secondly, if it breaks all ties with the BJP, many Sena MLAs/MPs may switch over to the BJP. Further, during the poll campaign, the Sena leadership had been so pre-occupied with saving its citadel, the BMC, that it ignored polls in zilla parishads and other municipal corporations, where the BJP's juggernaut reigned supreme. The Sena will have to work its way up from the ground level both in rural and urban areas.

Another hitch for the Sena is Hindutva, which has held the Sena-BJP alliance together for over two decades. Religion is one of the strongest cementing factors, involving emotional attachment that, at times, defies logical reasoning. The BJP would also not want to let the Sena grow to bigger than its boots as its adversary and would like it to remain small to play the second fiddle.

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Updated Date: Feb 25, 2017 12:26:30 IST

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