Any political commentator worth his salt will tell you that the upcoming BMC polls scheduled to take place in early 2022 will decide the fate of the Maha Vikas Aghadi government, that is they continue to hang on to power till then.
The Shiv Sena has ruled the BMC with an iron grip uninterrupted since the past 30 years; however, this time around it will be up against the marauding BJP which came close to dethroning Sena from its crown jewel in 2017. The Sena’s new alliance partners – INC and NCP, are non-players when it comes to BMC, with the INC already announcing its desire to go solo for the civic polls. A direct fight with the BJP is what Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray’s nightmares are made of as under his careful tutelage, the Sena is all set to lose its crown jewel and chief funding source – the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation.
For the uninitiated, the BMC is the country’s richest civic body and is slated to go to polls early next year with the Sena ruling the body since the last 30 years with the BJP as its junior partner for most of the period.
However, Sena’s lust for the Chief Minister’s chair has changed the equations. Such is the inflated ego of the Sena, which believes that Mumbai is their heirloom. The BJP-Sena in 2017, who at that time were in an alliance in the then Fadnavis government, didn’t fight the BMC elections together as Sena only agreed to give a handful of seats to the BJP to ensure that the latter remains as a junior partner in BMC, having lost that status in the Maharashtra government.
The Sena was expecting to romp home in the 227-member civic body but was served a rude shock as the BJP secured a whopping 82 seats with the Sena securing 86 seats. This was a watershed moment in Mumbai politics as the BJP had come close to loosen Sena’s iron grip on the city. The two warring parties then came together to come to power in the BMC thereby playing spoilsport over Sena’s dreams of ruling the BMC without the BJP’s support.
Being at the helm of the country’s richest civic body has its own perks and that’s what kept the Sena afloat during the 15-year rule of Congress-NCP in Maharashtra.
The Maharashtra BJP under the tutelage of Devendra Fadnavis was often labelled as an election-winning machine as it made inroads even in rural Maharashtra where the party earlier had no presence. As soon as the Sena betrayed the BJP, the latter had announced that it will be going alone in the BMC polls.
A wounded BJP is already baying for Sena’s blood which will also be facing the voters for the first time after forming an alliance with ideologically opposite INC and NCP.
As we have noticed in the recent elections, the INC has been absolutely drubbed wherever there has been a direct fight between the party and the BJP with latest case in point being Bihar and the by-poll results in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Karnataka. The same fate awaits the Sena too.
The Sena which will be facing the voters for the first time after betraying their mandate is on a sticky wicket, especially after the absolute bungling in the handing of the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic with spine chilling stories coming out regularly from Mumbai during the virus’ peak. Floods during Mumbai rains have become an annual happening with the BMC’s glaring inefficiencies being exposed regularly.
The subsequent attack by the party’s goons on a Navy veteran for as little as sharing a cartoon on Uddhav Thackeray on WhatsApp to deploying the state machinery against Arnab Goswami and Kangana Ranaut for their audacity to question the party’s Supreme Leader is likely to not go down well with the electorate. History is a witness that whenever the electorate’s basic tenets of freedom are under threat, they have replied decisively and the Sena is not going to be an exception to this rule.
Under the Modi era, the BJP has shocked the Opposition parties with the efficiency with which the party battles the smallest of the elections with the party now going hammer and tongs for Greater Hyderabad Municipal polls and the District Development Councils polls in J&K. A wounded BJP is likely to be even more lethal this around when it comes to the BMC.
The state BJP had always extended a long rope to the Sena as the former thought it as its duty to help its “natural ally” Sena after the passing away of Balasaheb Thackeray. Even where the BJP used to be in a direct contest against the Sena it used to treat it as a friendly contest with the parties often forging an alliance post polls. However, things now have changed and it will be anything but a friendly alliance between the Sena and the BJP.
It is pertinent to note that the Sena used to romp home in BMC, in the absence of any credible opposition in the civic body as the BJP used to be a junior alliance partner. Now, the Mumbaikars have an option to vote out the Sena for a viable alternative.
While Sena’s alliance partners, the NCP and INC, may well not contest in an alliance, they hardly matter when it comes to BMC. The duo secured paltry nine and 30 seats respectively in the last elections, however, an alliance would have certainly helped the Sena offset the votes lost due to its betrayal by cornering a chunk minority votes in Mumbai.
The decision of the INC to fight the polls alone can be read in two ways. The first being the Sena unsurprisingly won’t be ready to part with more than a handful of seats as under no circumstances would it want to reduce its dominance in the civic body. The other reason being that the party has read the mood on the ground and knows that allying with the Sena will be a huge shot in the foot.
With its new alliance partners on the verge of deserting the Sena for the civic polls, an embattled Sena has unsurprisingly decided to play the ‘Marathi Asmita’ card for the BMC polls — a clear cut indication that the Sena is aware of the ground reality and is now pinning hopes on its rapidly diminishing Maratha voter base.
Shiv Sena’s chief motormouth Sanjay Raut continues to day dream about the Sena ruling Maharashtra for the next 25 years, however, he isn’t entirely wrong. The Sena will continue to rule for the next 25 years, albeit, not Maharashtra or the BMC, but the Matoshree where Uddhav, his son Aaditya, and Sanjay Raut can take each other’s interview for Saamana where they continue to harp about Uddhav’s capabilities on advising the World Health Organisation.