BJP-Shiv Sena ties have been far from cordial for a long time.
The results of the local bodies election in Maharashtra as a whole, and Mumbai’s municipal body (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, or BMC, as it is widely known) specifically, on which much national attention was centred, is like the curate’s egg — good in parts — for the BJP and Shiv Sena, the chief protagonists. The BJP, which rules Maharashtra in coalition with the Shiv Sena but was unable to reach a poll understanding with the Mumbai-centric regional party, did very well in the state civic elections as a whole. It even improved its position quite handsomely in the BMC compared to the results in 2012.
However, despite being the state’s ruling party, it could not displace the Shiv Sena’s number one position in the BMC. Indeed, the Sena too was able to improve on its 2012 result. It is, therefore, fair to say that Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray has been able to establish his leadership after the demise of his stalwart father, the late Bal Thackeray. More, he has done so though the original Sena split and there is a rump led by his cousin Raj.
However, it is evident that the regional Hindutva party, while it could best the national-level Hindutva party in the western metropolis, was unable to win a clear majority in Mumbai’s cash-rich civic body. It also appears no one party now seems to be able to clear the halfway mark in the BMC. The larger question is: Who will be the next mayor?
BJP-Sena ties have been far from cordial for a long time. Mr Thackeray has not kept the issue of withdrawing from the BJP-led state coalition (and presumably at the Centre) beyond the pale of consideration. But will his party now approach its bête noire and competitor for the Hindu-nationalist vote for cooperation? If not, the politics of both Mumbai and Maharashtra as a whole will be fascinating.
In case the Sena withdraws support from the Devendra Fadnavis government, will Sharad Pawar’s NCP rescue the BJP-led government on the floor of the Assembly, after being beaten comprehensively by the BJP across its stronghold in western Maharashtra in the just-held civic and local bodies polls?
The NCP has, in fact, been nearly wiped off the slate in Mumbai, besides suffering heavy defeats at the hands of the BJP in other parts of the state. This may be time for the party to do some serious self-introspection.
The Congress, while desirous of challenging the BJP on the all-India plane, has done much worse than in the 2012 BMC election, done in primarily by severe infighting, the party’s age-old enemy. Its local Mumbai chief Sanjay Nirupam has had to resign. This party too appears to be losing its way.