The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won 82 seats in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), just two short of its ally-turned-foe Shiv Sena’s tally of 84 seats in the 227-member house. This is the first time in three decades that any party has come so close to Sena’s tally challenging its hold over its citadel.
Here’s a look at five strategic things BJP did that worked in its favour in Mumbai :
1. Ground-level management: The party started ground-level organisational work in the city one-and-a-half years before the 2017 civic polls. The BJP’s presence in the city was very limited until the 2014 Assembly polls, in which the party got its 15 legislators elected. To prepare itself to contest all 227 wards in the civic polls (it had only contested 65 for the past three terms), it started building its base tasking all its legislators and three Mumbai Members of Parliament to strengthen locality level organisation. The party also appointed an organisational secretary, from the RSS, only for Mumbai.
2. Corruption complaint as tool: A year before the polls, the BJP started making noise about corruption in the civic body in road contracts indirectly blaming Shiv Sena’s rule for the city’s mess. The chief minister announced probes in road works, desilting works in Mumbai, which revealed a cosy nexus between the officials and contractors and massive corruption. The BJP started taking up the opposition space in the Mumbai civic body taking on the Sena over corruption in the civic body. During the campaign, Congress got completely marginalised while BJP took over the opposition mantle completely.
3. Clean image: The city’s campaign was led by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, whose clean image gave a fillip to the party. Fadnavis’ promise to usher in transparency in the civic body and change the way tenders, contracts were given out resonated with citizenry fed up with the city’s abysmal state of civic amenities. The CM’s performance in the state in the last two years where he had speeded up several infrastructure projects like Mumbai Metro, airport, sea bridges worked in the party’s favour.
4. Wooing non-Marathi vote bank: The BJP, recognising the city’s demographic, wooed the non-Marathi vote bank, especially Gujaratis (their traditional base) and north Indians. This worked in their favour (46 per cent of the city’s population). The party had given around 53 tickets to Gujaratis and North Indian candidates out of which around 30 + got elected. The polarised poll battle ensured that non Marathi voters voted in favour of BJP.
5. Social media campaigns: The party poured its resources into a strong social media and an ad campaign that made it visible across the city. And, the party identified winnable candidates for majority of the wards through survey. This included poaching on ’winnable candidates’ across parties besides co-opting citizen candidates. Over 8 of such candidates won the seats. The party also worked hard to get the middle class voter living in housing societies and buildings to come down and vote for what has been so far seen as a `slum election’.