The election to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is being seen as a do or die battle for the Bharatiya Janata Party, Shiv Sena, Congress and Nationalist Congress Party.
There are 2,275 candidates in 227 municipal wards in the fray and the vote is expected to be a referendum on the BJP-led Devendra Fadnavis government. The mandate from Mumbai and nine other big cities will also provide answers to several questions about politics in Maharashtra.
With all four main parties striking out on their own, each is looking at these elections with an eye on the 2019 assembly polls. The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) is fighting to stay relevant and the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) is trying to make its presence felt.
“The poll results will give us early trends for 2019. They can also shape political futures,” political analyst Prakash Bal said.
The parties with the most at stake are, of course, the Shiv Sena and the BJP who are still in an uneasy alliance in the state. Their battle is for Mumbai as the city is the Sena’s citadel and the BJP is seeking to storm it.
If the Sena remains the single-largest party, it will turn even more aggressive. If the BJP gets the most seats, the Sena is in trouble. If the BJP does well in the rural areas, it can claim demonetisation has got the public’s seal of approval. And the Congress and the NCP will be left with a mountain to climb in 2019.
Its outcome will also have a bearing on the governments in Maharashtra and New Delhi, both headed by the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Here are four situations that BMC results can lead to:
1. If the Shiv Sena loses its control over the country’s richest corporation, it will further strain its ties with the BJP. The two parties have been fighting over many issues, such as portfolio allocation, ministerial berths and policy matters. A loss may prompt Sena to snap ties with the BJP.
2. A victory for the BJP means it will further tighten its grip over Maharashtra that it won in the 2014 assembly election. It will also consolidate the position of CM Fadnavis who has managed to clip the wings of his rivals in the Maharashtra BJP.
3. Any revival of the Congress will sound the alarm bells for the BJP and its ambitions of a Congress Mukt Bharat. It will be a big boost to the Congress which is looking for electoral victories to regain a momentum that it had lost in 2014.
4. If the BMC elections throw up a hung verdict, it will lead to new political alignments a situation that Sharad Pawar-led NCP will be very happy with.