BMC polls: No clear verdict but BJP makes big gains

Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis celebrates with BJP cadre after civic poll results in Mumbai (Photo: Suryakant Niwate)
In a fiercely fought election to the 227-member Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) — the country’s richest civic body — both the Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) failed to reach the magic figure of 114, required for a simple majority.

The Shiv Sena, which diluted its Marathi manoos plank for the first time by reaching out to all sections, won 84 seats, while its former ally the BJP, which raised the issue of transparency, bagged 82 seats, a stunning performance compared to the previous election when it had won only 32.

Technically, the Shiv Sena has succeeded in retaining its supremacy in the BMC, adding nine seats to its 2012 tally of 75.

The results, where none of the parties has got a clear majorty, may lead to another tussle between the two longstanding allies, with both Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis of the BJP and Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray remaining non-committal on a tie-up in the BMC.

“The party’s core committee will decide if the Shiv Sena can be seen as an ally or not. The core committee will decide what needs to be done about the BMC. I haven’t spoken to Uddhav Thackeray,” said Fadnavis.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated the “sisters and brothers of Maharashtra” after the BJP’s good showing. “Extremely thankful to the sisters & brothers of Maharashtra... I congratulate the entire team of Maharashtra BJP. Through hard work, determination and work on the ground, the BJP now a strong force both in urban and rural Maharashtra,” Modi tweeted. Apart from Mumbai, the city corporations that went to the polls were Thane, Ulhasnagar, Nashik, Pune, Pimpri-Chinchwad, Solapur, Akola, Amravati and Nagpur. The BJP has won eight municipal corporations, except Mumbai and Thane. 

Fadnavis, who led the BJP from the front, has sailed through another big test. Of the 1,066 seats declared, the BJP has won a record 521 seats. In the 25 zila parishads, too, the party has shown a sterling performance. 

A visibly relaxed Fadnavis attributed the party’s performance to the anti-corruption policies implemented by Prime Minister Modi and overwhelming support by voters for the party’s transparency plank.

On BJP’s strong showing, Uddhav said, “(I) cannot call it a BJP victory. You must assess it keeping in mind the money and muscle they put into the elections.”

In its campaign for the BMC, the BJP targeted the Shiv Sena over the “poor state” of Mumbai roads and other amenities as also over allegations of corruption, promising “transparency” and “transformation” if it was given control of the municipality.

The Congress and the Nationalist Congres Party (NCP) were routed again after their poor show in the elections to the Lok Sabha and the state assembly held in 2014, besides municipal council elections last year. Mumbai Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam even offered to resign. 

The Congress managed to win only 31 seats against 52 in the 2012 polls, while the NCP only nine against 14, and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena seven against 28. 

The election results are quite significant for the BJP and the Shiv Sena as they had parted ways over the seat-sharing issue just a few days before the BMC polls.

The two parties were together ruling the BMC, which is Asia’s largest civic body with an annual budget of over Rs 37,000 crore. 

Senior BJP minister Chandrakant Patil indicated that a post-poll alliance between the BJP and Shiv Sena was the only viable alternative to rule the BMC. However, Patil reiterated that transparency will be the focal point for alignment between the two parties and thereafter in the administration.

Shiv Sena legislator Anil Parab said the party president would take a final call in this regard. Immediately after the counting was over, Mumbai BJP President Ashish Shelar said Independent candidate Rahar Raja Khan had extended his support to the BJP. He hinted three other Independents may follow the suit.  

BJP Minister Vinod Tawde, without naming the Shiv Sena, said, “It is a tight slap for those who had said that the BJP will not get 40 seats in the BMC election.”

Maharashtra Congress spokesman Ratnakar Mahajan said, “The results are mixed, with the party doing well in zila parishads while suffering reverses in the municipal corporations. It is definitely a setback. Whether there has been a disconnect between voters and the party leaders should be seen.”

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