When warring allies Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Shiv Sena decided to contest the municipal council polls together — to test the waters before the corporation polls in Mumbai and Thane — it was perceived as an attempt to call a truce. However, the municipal council polls seem to have done the exact opposite, by exposing the fractured ties between the two parties on the ground — the alliance ultimately worked out in less than 10 places.
Arvind Sawant, a Shiv Sena MP, said, “Although the top leadership of the two parties had called for an alliance, any sort of partnership between the two parties for the municipal council polls was almost absent, except for a few stray councils. Firstly, the decision to form an alliance was made very late because it didn’t leave any time for seat-sharing and campaign strategies. Secondly, in many councils, the local leadership did not want an alliance.”
Of the 147 municipal councils, the BJP and Shiv Sena actually fought in an alliance only in places such as Rahta in the Ahmednagar district, Dhamangaon in the Amravati district, Yevala in Nashik, Deulgaon Raja in Buldhana and Parli in Beed district, among others, party sources said. In all other places, there was a negligible attempt to contest together.
In Uran, for instance, the Shiv Sena and the BJP had decided to fight the council polls separately even though the state leadership for both parties had decided to form an alliance.
Shiv Sena’s Manohar Bhoir, the local legislator, said, “Come what may, hammering out an alliance was impossible in Uran. The two parties have had many differences ever since the legislative assembly polls, which we fought independently.”
Bhoir said the decision to form an alliance was made on October 27, while the last date to file nomination papers was October 30. “By then, candidates for both parties were ready,” he said.
Another Shiv Sena leader said, “Be it in Kolhapur, Sangli, Satara, large areas of Dhule, Ahmednagar, Osmanabad, Hingoli, most of the Vidarbha region, and so on, the alliance did not work out. Our candidates fought against BJP candidates. The only one thing that was probably different with the state leadership of the two parties deciding to forge an alliance was that the mudslinging between the Sena and BJP was tempered.”
Moreover, the BJP’s tying up with rival parties to clinch seats further angered the Shiv Sena, which resumed its onslaughts against the BJP.
“Our success is pure and clean. The number of our elected council presidents would have also swelled if we had forged secret alliances with parties such as Congress, Nationalist Congress Party and AIMIM. Those who are attributing the BJP’s success to people’s support of the demonetisation decision are stupid,” the Shiv Sena said in an editorial in the party mouthpiece, Saamana, on Wednesday.
The party also said the BJP used the entire state machinery to lobby for it, with the chief minister himself addressing 55 public gatherings, while the Sena fought on the strength of its cadre, without leaders Uddhav Thackeray or Aaditya Thackeray campaigning.
While leaders of both parties admit their cadre on the ground prefers not to forge any electoral alliances between the Shiv Sena and the BJP in the near future, given their acrimonious relations, they maintain that any such decision will be taken by the top leadership. Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said the BJP will be willing to tie up with the Shiv Sena for the upcoming Mumbai and Thane civic polls.
A senior BJP leader, on condition of anonymity, said, “Even for the municipal council polls, BJP workers on the ground did not want to tie up with the Shiv Sena given the way the party has been behaving, criticising the prime minister, and not respecting the alliance. An alliance has some rules and both parties are expected to follow it. It has its pros and cons, and a party cannot say it wants to only enjoy the advantages. The party will, however, take an appropriate stand on the alliance in corporation elections.”