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Civic Polls: The Fight For Consolidation Vs Relevance

Siddhanath Ganu

Updated: February 27, 2017, 8:46 PM IST
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Civic Polls: The Fight For Consolidation Vs Relevance
(From left) File photo of Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, BJP leader and Maharshtra CM Devendra Fadnavis, NCP chief Sharad Pawar and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray.
It's a sense of Deja vu for those following the municipal elections for the Brihanmumbai Corporation. The Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party fought the elections separately (much like the 2014 Assembly polls) and neither of them has got the necessary mandate to come to power on its own. It's an awkward situation where neither can easily walk back from its campaign tirade against the other.

The BJP emerged as the clear winner in the civic body polls with its stellar performance across state. Barring Thane and Mumbai, everywhere BJP is the number one party. The BJP, under CM Fadnavis, fought to consolidate itself further in the state, but the other political parties fought not just an aggressive BJP, but each other to occupy the space of opposition in the state.

Tiger Shiv Sena

Since the Fadnavis government took charge, Shiv Sena has played the role of opposition from within the government. Be it portfolio allocation, be it the demonetisation drive or recently the inauguration of the giant (and quite pointless) Shivaji Statue in the Arabian Sea, Sena has pitted itself against the BJP. Its recent rhetoric of 'notice period' and 'resignation in our pockets' hinged on the hope that the party would single-handedly control BMC and could then walk out of the government to the other side of the aisle and take the BJP head on in 2019. But the Mumbai voter has dealt a blow to Sena's ambition as it is now at the mercy of other parties to recapture the Mayor's seat. Sena could still cobble up an arrangement to capture the BMC without BJP but it would be too frail a pedestal from where it can walk the talk of leaving state government and going solo in 2019.

'The Grand Old' Congress

It's no surprise that the factionalism-ridden Mumbai Congress was battered in the civic polls. State big-wigs and Mumbai Congress veterans only put up a cosmetic united front after Rahul Gandhi installed his 'chosen one' at the helm of affairs. The state Congress has shown no spark in the Assembly in the 2.5 years of BJP-Sena rule and is holding on to the LoP's post with the lead of one MLA over its former ally, NCP. In Mumbai, it managed to retain just above half of its 2012 tally, in Solapur — former CM Sushil Kumar Shinde's den — the party faced an absolute rout in the corporation, in Amaravati Congress is nowhere close to power, while BJP bettered its numbers manifold. While it did show some spine in Zila Parishads and Panchayat Samitis at places, there isn’t much that the Congress can take away to boost itself at the state level.

Maverick Pawar's NCP

NCP's replug of Maratha politics by lending its weight to the Maratha Morchas did not help it much in the civic polls. The party campaign led by former deputy CM Ajit Pawar failed to capture the urban voter's imagination and got two body-blows in the western belt — Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad. While it did well in Zila Parishad and Panchayat Samitis, even wresting away the Parali Panchayat Samiti from BJP minister Pankaja Munde, it isn't fodder enough for the NCP to raise stakes at the state level.

MNS Engine Runs Out of Steam

Raj Thackeray and his MNS have got a bitter reality check this election. Despite Raj's repeated demand for a clear mandate in the Assembly for the state's Navnirman, voters rejected his candidates in Mumbai and even Nashik where they were in power till now. The MNS scored an embarrassing seven in Mumbai, while in Nashik it has been dethroned and decimated to a paltry three. MNS's tall claims of having a blueprint for Maharashtra and being the only representative of the Marathi identity have been shown the dustbin by the voter.

What it Means for the State

Much like at the Centre, the BJP in Maharashtra is harping on the development and transparency agenda. A boisterous BJP under the proven administrative skills of Fadnavis blessed by an expansionist party chief Amit Shah will be rearing to return to power on its own in 2019. The Sena knows it must be proactive and hence it is posturing itself as a credible alternative. The picture will get a lot clearer in the next 2.5 years and the arena would be wide open in 2019.
First Published: February 27, 2017, 8:41 PM IST

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