Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has laid down two conditions for an alliance with the Shiv Sena for the Mumbai civic elections that will be held in a few months. The warring partner has to concede enough seats to BJP reflecting its ‘growing strength’, and ensure transparency in the functioning of the country’s biggest – by budget and population – municipal corporation.
These conditions may not be agreeable to Sena despite BJP's improved performance in the election to the municipal councils: nagar parishads and nagar panchayats. After all, Mumbai is its golden goose and they would like keep control of the prestigious body despite the fact that is being run into the ground because of corruption and shoddy work.
It is all very well for the BJP, which steers the state’s administration, to demand the numbers as it has won substantially in the councils. As the results show, BJP has won 1,090 seats in all councils put together across the state, with Congress coming close at 894, Nationalist Congress Party with 774, and Shiv Sena 618. If these numbers alone count, Sena has lost its case for Mumbai.
Mumbai’s, as well as the conjoined Thane’s political dimensions are different from the rest of the state, including its urban areas. There is a massive shift in demography with changing cultural and linguistic affiliations. The Sena may retain its core base, but absence of any civil disturbance in the wake of the crushing impact of demonetisation on the common man shows that BJP can retain its hope.
It is significant that while talking about the future of their parties, both the BJP and Sena keep referring to the likely contests and the importance of the outcome in the municipal corporation elections. It is the Mumbai and Thane scenes that seem to matter, but the rest would only be fought hard locally.
Barring the major cities, Sena’s lowest ranking in urban areas statewide would be the leverage for BJP to exploit. However, the numbers, including the presidents directly elected – this for the first time – may be somewhat misleading. The BJP with 1,090 would spin it and crow about it but they are out of the total 4,560 that went to polls. It is only its fourth.
The presidents on BJP tickets who got directly elected stand at 65 against the 72 taken by its rivals, including Sena’s 27. Impressively, Congress won 31, and NCP 23. This could be a different yardstick to measure BJP’s gains because in many places, it won the top job but lost the councils to other parties. That is a clear case of local politics overturning the broader party identities. Civic poll outcomes in small towns are hard to predict.
Regardless of these developments, Sena is unlikely to concede to the BJP norms for alliance in Mumbai. Battle for the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai is going to be existential for it and no holds would be barred. Any pre-poll talks could end up as a dialogue of the deaf but with the two hoarsely screaming their entitlements, as they did in the run up to the Assembly polls.
If the two do come together, it would be a major triumph of hope over experience and then lead to a possible realignment of relationship in the government where Sena is a nagging partner which behaves like an Opposition. The irritation of having them in the government is visible, but to Fadnavis, putting the obdurate Sena in place in its decades old stronghold is important in the political brinkmanship.
A noteworthy facet of this civic polls across the state – a couple of phases are yet to be held – is that though some leaders like Ashok Chavan have retained their district’s control, the BJP and Sena together have appropriated most space which the Congress and the NCP need to spring back to life in the state.
Updated Date: Dec 20, 2016 15:43:00 IST