In the battle for prestige, the Shiv Sena emerged the single largest party in the crucial Kalyan-Dombivli Municipal Corporation (KDMC) polls, even though it fell 10 seats short of bagging a majority.
The BJP’s efforts to win Kalyan- Dombivli and the Kolhapur civic bodies fell short, as the polls threw a hung house in both places.
By evening, the Sena had even hinted that it was keen to win power without help from the BJP. “We have the backing of at least six other corporators, along with 52 seats of our own. It should be a smooth sail for us,” said a senior Sena leader. The BJP, on the other hand, also started exploring an option to cobble up a coalition with MNS and other smaller parties to win power.
Contesting independently for the first time since the KDMC’s inception in 1995, both the Sena and the BJP put up impressive performances. Of the 122 seats in the civic body, the Sena came within striking distance of power by bagging 52 seats, closely followed by the BJP with 42 seats – up from 9 in 2010. The halfway mark is 61.
All other parties got swept away in the process. The MNS went from being the second-largest party with 27 corporators to a paltry 9. Worse was the fate of the Congress and the NCP, which went from 30 seats to just four.
The All-India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) registered its presence by bagging one seat. The election to the Maharashtrian-dominated twin cities close to Mumbai gained significance, as it was the first direct fight between the ruling allies after they came together to form the BJP-led government in Maharashtra last year.
The polls had the backdrop of the Sena’s violent protests against Pakistani artists, cricketers and politicians coming to India and a bitter verbal war between leaders from both parties, including the CM, Devendra Fadnavis, and Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray.
Towards the end of campaigning, Thackeray had even threatened to pull out of the state government.
Facing one of its stiffest challenges in retaining a civic body it has always won, the Sena managed to improve its tally from 31 to 52. It won 10 more seats than the BJP.
By evening, celebrations in the Sena gave way to contemplation, as the tally left it awkwardly illequipped to stake claim to power. It has two options now: Tie up with the BJP, against whom it bitterly fought, or mend fences with old rival MNS. Both options have their own share of embarrassment for the Sena.
The way the Sena solves this dilemma will have an impact on state-level politics too. The Sena-BJP ties have of late seen turbulent times, with both targeting each other during the campaigning. In Kolhapur, the BJP’s strategy to tie up with local outfit Tararani Aghadi failed to win it power.
Of 81 seats, the alliance won 32, while the Congress emerged the single largest party, with 27 seats, followed by NCP’s 15 — throwing up a hung house.
While the Congress has sought NCP’s help to win power in this civic body in western Maharashtra, the BJP-led front too is exploring the possibility of getting Sharad Pawar’s party on board to cobble up a coalition and snatch control of the body. Late in the evening, NCP spokesperson Nawab malik indicated that the party would support the Congress.