It's saffron for Mumbai. In a victory that left many stumped, the Shiv Sena-BJP combine, defying 16 years of anti-incumbency, routed the Congress-NCP alliance on Friday and retained control of one of the richest and most powerful civic bodies in India.
Riding on the Marathi manoos votes and its strong network of grassroots-level workers, the saffron combine, along with the Republican Party of India (RPI), won 108 seats, falling just six seats short of a simple majority in the 227-member house. The Sena won 75 seats, the BJP 32 and the RPI 1.
The Sena-led alliance will not need the support of Raj Thackeray's Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) to rule the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) for the fourth consecutive term. It can stake claim with the help of some Independents and small parties (27 seats), which are keen to be part of the ruling alliance.
The Congress-NCP coalition tailed way behind at 64 seats. Hit by infighting and poor electoral strategy, the Congress managed to garner only 50 seats and the NCP 14 seats.
"The Congress defeated itself. The infighting saw three of its MPs tacitly supporting rebels in a bid to defeat the city party chief Kripashankar Singh. Its campaign strategy also failed to mobilise voters," said Prakash Bal, political analyst and veteran journalist.
The MNS upped its score from seven seats in 2007 polls to 28. Unexpectedly, Raj Thackeray's party seems to have eaten into the anti-incumbency vote share of the Congress rather than the Sena's Marathi manoos votes.
Apart from Bal Thackeray's appeal to not let Mumbai fall into the hands of outsiders, the Sena's huge network of workers worked in its favour."I give the entire credit of the victory to my party workers. Despite the Congress-NCP alliance, we have retained hold of the BMC for the fourth time in a row. That's my answer to detractors," said Uddhav Thackeray, the Sena's executive president.
Saffron for Mumbai | Sena-BJP win