The results of three municipal polls – Panvel, Bhiwandi and Malegaon – have been declared and they have a mixed bag for all parties. While BJP has bagged the newly formed Panvel municipality, Congress has retained Bhiwandi. Malegaon has given a hung verdict with Congress emerging as the single largest party. Essentially BJP will be able to have its mayor in one and non-BJP parties in two municipalities which have high minority population.
Panvel Municipal Corporation polls took place for the first time. Earlier, Panvel came under the jurisdiction of Raigad gram panchayat. Panvel is 55 kilometres away from Mumbai and is a fairly urban centre. The BJP swept the municipality bagging 51/78 wards. PWP-INC-NCP alliance managed to win 27 seats. The PWP contested a maximum of 48 seats from the alliance and managed to win half of it (23). Partners NCP and INC fared poorly bagging two seats each out of 30 contested. Shiv Sena received a big jolt as it could not even open its account. In Assembly elections, on two seats which fall under the jurisdiction of corporation, BJP and PWP had won one seat each.
In Bhiwandi-Nizampur corporation, Congress won majority bagging 47/90 seats. This is a significant jump from 2012, when it won 26 seats and had to tie up with Shiv Sena for mayor position. The BJP managed to double its councilors with 19 seats versus eight in 2012. Shiv Sena lost four seats compared to its 2012 tally of 16. The NCP which had formed an alliance with SP couldn’t even open its account while the Hindi heartland party bagged two seats. Bhiwandi is the logistical hub of Mumbai and Bhiwandi city (a section of the corporation) has a majority Muslim population. Devendra Fadnavis led a spirited campaign promising 4-5 lakh jobs which seems to have benefitted the BJP.
Malegaon municipality has thrown a hung House in line with 2012 with Congress bagging 28 and NCP-JDS alliance 27 seats. Congress gained three while NCP has lost two seats compared to 2012. Shiv Sena has bagged 13 while BJP has made a strong opening with nine seats. NCP-AIMIM alliance was ruling the corporation but contested separately this time. Many possibilities can still take shape Congress + Shiv Sena or Congress + NCP + JDS or NCP + Shiv Sena + JDS. Malegaon like Bhiwandi is a Muslim majority area where BJP has traditionally performed poorly.
The results have significant impact on Maharashtra politics and a clear trend is emerging.
National parties — BJP and Congress — have emerged as the principal parties in Maharashtra. This is a departure from the dominance of regional parties NCP and Shiv Sena for most of the past two decades.
The results will likely increase the tension between BJP and Shiv Sena. With Panvel, Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad BJP’s dominance around Mumbai-Pune belt is complete. It has emerged as main party ahead of Shiv Sena. The Hindi heartland party has dislodged Shiv Sena as the first preference voter of the Marathi manoos. You will see more rumblings within the alliance government in the state.
Shiv Sena will try to play spoilsport for the presidential elections and will bargain hard with BJP. Shiv Sena has more than 25,000 votes and its support is crucial in getting a BJP nominee elected. It has already announced its support for Sharad Pawar if he contests. Sena has also performed better than BJP in Malegaon, its only saving grace from the poll results.
In Muslim dominated areas, BJP is slowly creating a strong footing among Hindu voters. This is visible in Bhiwandi results where BJP displaced Sena as the number two party. Its differentiated messaging for different segments – polarisation as well as development – is doing the trick.
Fadnavis graph will rise after these results. He led party to win Panvel and also made good progress in Bhiwandi and Malegaon (traditional weak areas for BJP). However, the plan of BJP to dissolve House to get rid of irritant Shiv Sena and win simple majority in re-elections will be put on hold.
The BJP is clearly emerging as the first choice of urban voters. Its win in Panvel is reminiscent of this fact. The BJP had received 42 percent support in urban areas, 32 percent in semi-urban and 30 percent in rural areas in 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
To conclude, BJP and Congress have a lot to cheer about in these results. The BJP graph is rising in Maharashtra since Lok Sabha elections. It has managed to reduce Shiv Sena as junior partner of alliance. Congress has emerged as the big daddy ahead of NCP. The results will also resonate in the presidential polls with Shiv Sena likely to thwart BJP attempts to get its man elected after another drubbing by BJP.
(The author is a corporate and investment banker turned political commentator, strategist and consultant. Views are personal. He can be reached @politicalbaaba).
Updated Date: May 26, 2017 18:50 PM