The BJP should be well satisfied with the results of the civic elections in Mumbai and nine other cities and 25 district councils in Maharashtra. They are a clear indication that its carefully calibrated and diligently implemented efforts to spread its footprint across the country are working. In Maharashtra, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis can take credit for building on the mandate the BJP got riding on the Modi wave of 2014. But credit is also due to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah for giving him a free hand once they decided he would be the CM and to the BJP cadre for falling in line.
Mr Fadnavis went to the people with the promise of good governance and transparency, and banking on his track record as CM over the last couple of years. He took on the Shiv Sena in Mumbai and the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party in the districts. As significant as its success in Mumbai is the BJP’s rout of the NCP in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad. Demonetisation and farmers’ distress were expected to cost the BJP in the rural areas. Instead, it has won control of 12 of the 25 district councils that went to the polls — a massive improvement on its 2012 tally of one. The Shiv Sena may have held on to its core Marathi voter base in Mumbai and Thane, but everywhere else there has been no such polarisation. Neither has the BJP suffered significantly from the attempts to stir up the dominant Maratha community against it.
The BJP in power, at the Centre and in the states, has continued to show the same intensity and attention to detail in communicating with the people that it did during the 2014 campaign and this is what separates it from the other parties and also leaves them worried. Already there is talk of the Shiv Sena, the Congress and the NCP tying up to keep the BJP out in Maharashtra. Even if nothing comes of these efforts, they reflect a growing recognition that the BJP has usurped the Congress’ position as the natural party of governance in India. Witness what happened in Bihar and is unfolding in Uttar Pradesh – a ganging up against the BJP.
With the results of the civic elections in Maharashtra and Odisha, the trend of other parties ganging up against the BJP will only strengthen. For the BJP, however, this could prove more a cause for celebration than worry. For, it is an admission by its rivals that the BJP occupies pole position in India political landscape and this can only help the party in its bid to capture power in more states in other parts of the country.