It was quite unusual to see two top leaders of the ruling alliance targeting each other in a bitter tussle in an election for the municipal body of a city that is not even half the size of Mumbai’s civic body.
Last week saw both chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray ridiculing each other’s parties to win power in Kalyan-Dombivli civic polls. The voters, however, did not give a clear mandate to any of them. The Sena managed to score over the BJP by winning 10 seats more, but fell short of a majority.
The BJP put up an impressive show, but could not reach anywhere close to the halfway mark.
As the day ended, both the sides were busy winning over the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena and the independents to get 61 votes on their side to win power. As of now, it not clear who will succeed, but if one of them manages to win power and keeps the other ally in the opposition, there could be consequences in the coming days.
The bitterness that was seen between the two parties may not end with the elections. So, will the things turn worse from here?
A lot would now depend on how the two main players in this entire drama, Fadnavis and Thackeray, handle the situation in the coming days.
The person who has a lot at stake is Fadnavis, who made the Kalyan-Dombivli election his personal battle by leading from the front. Fadnavis probably wanted to emerge as the BJP’s face that could win the party elections.
He did manage to put up an impressive show, but in the process increased the bitterness with ally Shiv Sena.
Significantly, Fadnavis is keen on running the government with the support of the Sena instead of the NCP as he had been vocal over the allegations against the NCP leaders during the Congress-NCP regime.
Now as he completes one year in office, it is evident that his party’s honeymoon with the voters in the state is over and he would have to show that his government is delivering what it had promised. There is no major election till early 2017 so he can get some time to ensure effective implementation of BJP’s promises.
His next big electoral test would be when Mumbai and some other civic bodies go to the polls in 2017.
He would need peace till then and as such, not antagonising the Sena further could be a better option than staying at the mercy of ‘tainted’ NCP. In any case, the Congress and NCP seem to be coming closer and after Monday’s results things might be changing. The BJP cannot take the NCP’s support for granted. A confident opposition could mean a bad news for the ruling party, especially the chief minister.
On the other hand, Uddhav Thackeray is clearly not in the mood to celebrate. He scored over the BJP in terms of numbers, but is unable to win power in Kalyan-Dombivli on his own. His party has not made any progress in Kolhapur.
He will have to take a call — whether to continue to remain aggressive against the government while being in power or bury the hatchet and prepare for the bigger battle in 2017. After all, the Mumbai civic body has been Sena’s source of power and strength for the past two decades.
Though Fadnavis has been insisting that his party would align with the Sena for the Mumbai elections, there is no guarantee that the two parties may end up doing what they did first in assembly elections and more recently in Kalyan-Dombivli—keep talking about alliance but in the end contest separately.
It also means that the sound and light show of the two unhappy allies will continue for some more time. Unless, of course, the two main players decide otherwise.