... And man of the match award goes to Devendra Fadnavis
The riveting battle between Australia’s batsmen against India’s slow bowlers on a turning pitch was juxtaposed with the twists, turns and tumbles in the BMC election resultsmumbai Updated: Feb 24, 2017 13:54 IST
I watched the tense opening day of the first Test between India and Australia with attention divided. Results of the BMC elections were a constant distraction for the handful of Mumbai journalists in the press box of the MCA Cricket Stadium in Pune.
The riveting battle between Australia’s batsmen against India’s slow bowlers on a turning pitch was juxtaposed with the twists, turns and tumbles in the BMC election results. All through the day my laptop displayed two scorecards.
Both scorecards reveal that respective the passage of play, so to speak, was engaging and uncertain. But the one pertaining to the elections was the more action-packed and dramatic, as what looked like a one-horse race turned into a cliff-hanger.
In the early rounds of counting, it seemed the Shiv Sena would be able to get a simple majority easily. Then came the BJP’s dramatic surge in the afternoon that almost tripped it from becoming single largest party.
But while the Sena is the winner in this contest, the man of the match, as it were, would be Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, whose fearlessness in breaking an old partnership and relentless campaigning has seen his party swell its influence manifold.
And not just in the BMC, but in all the metros of the state where municipal elections were held recently. Barring Thane – where too BJP has done reasonably well – his personalised outreach to voters has borne reward.
To be fair, the Shiv Sena too has done very well too. It retained the Thane Municipal Corporation and made big strides in Nashik (at the cost of the MNS), Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad. But the close call in the BMC must have left the leadership smarting.
But if the run-up to the BMC elections was about Uddhav Thackeray’s pointed challenge to the BJP, the importance of the results may well be about the utter lack of challenge put up by the Congress and the NCP.
Barely crossing 30 seats in Mumbai is paltry achievement and the Congress has done abysmally across Maharashtra in nine civic polls and at the zilla parishad level too. Its on-off partner NCP has hardly fared better.
Excuses will be made and scapegoats will be found. But the essential question remains: How and can the Congress move up from here? Indeed, this is now an existential question for a party that not too long ago had the strongest footprint across the country.
What is clear is that few, if any, lessons have been learnt from the general elections of 2014. The humiliation of being reduced to 44 seats many felt represented rock bottom and the only way was up for the Congress.
But even by 2017, the awareness that the abyss is dark and fathomless does not appear to have dawned on the party which even for the BMC elections was riven by factionalism and infighting that left it debilitated.
Maharashtra, once a stronghold, is waving the Congress farewell as of now. Whether this is adieu or au revoir depends entirely on a realisation of the scale of the problem.
The MNS and the NCP have also removed themselves from the electoral equation for now. What the first stands for ideologically, others offer better; what the second stands for no one really knows barring Sharad Pawar’s presence. And that is clearly no longer good enough.
So either the BJP (82 seats) or the Shiv Sena (84) who finished neck-and-neck will remain in charge of Mumbai once again in whatever combination they play it. As of now, Uddhav Thackeray says he will not tie up with the BJP. But politics, remember, is a game of compulsions, not necessarily of living up to promises. The future is intriguing to say the least. The Sena-BJP alliance ran the city for decades. Will anything change with them staying together or apart is the question that will be uppermost in every Mumbaikar’s mind.
Meanwhile, focus shifts to elections elsewhere. Uttar Pradesh, of course, is far more complicated than civic polls in Maharashtra, but who can be blamed for hearing echoes of the municipal elections here?