The unexpected results of the civic polls have had different effects on two major alliances in the state. While it forced the Nationalist Congress Party to reconsider its plans to go solo in the 2014 assembly election, it has revived the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) hopes of coming out of the shadow of the Shiv Sena.
For long, the BJP has been trying to grow bigger than the Sena in Maharashtra. Its ambitions became clearer as Nitin Gadkari took over as state BJP chief and later national president of the party. In the 2009 assembly election, BJP emerged as the main opposition party by winning two more seats than the Sena. In the state legislature, it has forced the Sena to play second fiddle. Now with the civic poll results out, BJP leaders have realised that they need not be at the mercy of the Sena in the urban areas. The relation is now even, with the Sena needing BJP as well. It cannot win power in the Mumbai and Thane civic bodies without the BJP’s support, though the latter can win power in Nagpur without the Sena’s help. It won’t be surprising if the BJP insists on a larger share of power in Mumbai. Going by the gup in the party, BJP leaders are likely to demand control of the standing committee (which controls civic coffers) in the BMC power-sharing formula. The rise of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena has given a boost to the BJP’s future plans. It is no secret that Gadkari and his close aides share cordial relations with Raj Thackeray. In fact, the Gadkari camp has already started analysing the results to explore the possibility of a future tie-up with the MNS in the Mumbai-Pune-Nashik belt.
So, what should the Sena do? The need of the hour for Sena leadership is to build on the success it got in Mumbai and get ready for the 2014 assembly poll. In that case, will the Sena chief antagonise the BJP at this juncture by not giving in to its demand? Saturday’s developments show that Thackeray has not yet accepted the BJP’s suggestion for an alliance with the MNS in Nashik. Talks for a power-sharing formula in the BMC are yet to start. It would be interesting to see what the BJP does next.
Will it be Shinde or Joshi?
If the talk in Maharashtra’s political circles is to be believed, names of two state politicians are doing the rounds for the post of vice president. The tenure of President Pratibha Patil and vice president Hamid Ansari gets over in July-August 2012. Shinde’s name figures in the list of the probable candidates of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance. On the other hand, another former Maharashtra chief minister, Sena leader Manohar Joshi, could be a surprise candidate. If the rumours are to be believed, Joshi’s two friends — BJP president Nitin Gadkari and NCP chief Sharad Pawar — are keen that he should be made vice president. There is a possibility of a formula under which the president would be from the UPA and vice president would be from the NDA. In that case, Joshi’s chances will be brighter. Joshi’s close aides are pointing out what Gadkari said at a felicitation of the Sena leader in Mumbai last December. Gadkari had hinted that Joshi would soon be taking up a new responsibility.