The counting of votes for Maharashtra civic corporations and 25 district councils are almost over. At this stage, it isn't clear who will take over the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), Asia's richest civic body. But one thing is as clear as daylight. Devendra Fadnavis is the Man of the Match — the new BJP star on horizon.
Unlike in 2014, when BJP rode a Narendra Modi wave to power, there was no Modi wave in 2017. This election wasn't about BJP's favourite poster boy. For that matter, there were hardly any posters of Modi to be found in the state ahead of the civic body polls. The prime minister, busy campaigning for Assembly elections in the Hindi heartland, did not find time even once to hold a rally in Maharashtra.
The moment Shiv Sena announced that it won't go into a seat-sharing arrangement with the BJP and fight it alone by breaking the two-decade old alliance, the Maharashtra civic body polls assumed larger significance and became a mandate on Devendra Fadnavis.
The scale and scope of BJP's sweep suggests that the Maharashtra chief minister has emerged out of Modi's shadow and is now a regional satrap in his own right. Under his leadership, the party is all set to come to power in at least eight civic bodies — Pune, Pimpri-Chinchwad, Nashik, Solapur, Ulhasnagar, Akola, Nagpur and Amravati — out of the 10 that went to polls. According to latest results, it has bagged 403 zilla parishad seats with the Shiv Sena a distant second with 269.
In Mumbai, the BJP has so far won 82 seats, just two short of Shiv Sena. It is a massive 150 percent surge compared to its 2012 result when it had won 31 seats while Sena had won in 75. It becomes clear from the result that while Uddhav Thackeray has been able to more or less hold on to his bastions, the BJP has gained at the expense of Congress, who with 31 seats this time, suffered an enormous erosion of its base. The grand old party had won 52 seats in 2012.
Away from Mumbai, the BJP is in the midst of a Maharashtra sweep. In Pune, the party is leading in 74 out of total 162 seats. It is ahead in 34 seats in Ulhasnagar (total 78), 33 in Nasik (122), 70 in Nagpur (151), 24 in Amaravati (87), 39 in Solapur (102), 31 in Akola (73) and 30 in Pimpri-Chinchwad (128). Apart from a two-seat lead over BJP in Mumbai, the Shiv Sena is ahead in just one other place, Thane, where it has so far bagged 42 out of 131 seats. (All results according to News18.com till 6:30pm).
Strictly in terms of the state, the magnitude of the win is no less than the BJP tsunami triggered by Modi in 2014. Though the comparison may appear fatuous at first glance since that was a general election while this pertains to district councils and civic bodies, the win is no less significant because Fadnavis has single-handedly made BJP a tour de force in the state by wiping out every other political force except the Shiv Sena. The Congress stands decimated, NCP is facing a wipe-out wile Raj Thackeray's MNS is facing an existential crisis. Uddhav Thackeray, too, would be feeling the heat.
The Shiv Sena chief had refused to give BJP more than 40 seats ahead of the polls which led to the breakdown of alliance, a decision he may now be ruing with BJP breathing down his neck. It seems unlikely that Shiv Sena will be able to return to power in cash-rich BMC without BJP's support. That may further diminish Thackeray's standing, given the vituperative and invective-filled campaign he had run against the BJP.
In contrast, Fadnavis now emerges as Maharashtra's tallest leader. Sharad Pawar's aura is gone, Raj Thackeray must rethink his future, Congress's Sanjay Nirupam has tendered his resignation and Uddhav Thackeray has been cut to size. From a little-known figure when he was catapulted into the hot seat, Fadnavis is now a Maha chief minister. His future moves will be keenly watched.
Updated Date: Feb 24, 2017 12:26 PM