Shiv Sena leaders heaved a sigh of relief as the Bharatiya Janata Party opted out of the mayoral race after the February 21 civic polls threw a fractured mandate.
The Sena could get its mayor elected and became the ruling party in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), India’s biggest and richest civic body that governs the financial capital of the country. However, winning mayoral election was probably the easy part. The difficult part will be to rule the civic body without having majority in the civic house. A look at the hurdles the Shiv Sena is likely to face while running the BMC:
Ruling the BMC without majority in civic house
The Shiv Sena has been ruling the BMC for two decades now. During this period, it always was close to majority or had clear majority with allies like BJP. This time, it has 84 members in the house of 227 and the BJP, with its 82 members, has given conditional support.It also has support of four Independents. Without BJP, it will need 26 more votes to get its proposals cleared. It means the Sena will need to take the BJP into confidence for any major decision that needs to be cleared by the civic house of elected representatives. If not, it will need support of other parties like Congress (31 members), Nationalist Congress Party (9), Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (7) and Samajwadi Party (6). This will be a tightrope walk and Sena can’t push through its agenda.
Facing an aggressive BJP in the run-up to the 2019 assembly polls
The Sena is the largest party in the civic body but the BJP is a close second with just two members less than the former. With BJP announcing that it would support the Sena only for the proposals that are in the interest of the city, there are clear indications that the tussle between the two parties will continue. It means the Sena’s decisions will be under scanner by the BJP which will try to show the citizens how the Sena can be a bad choice to run the city. The problem for the Sena is, the BJP was its partner in power for two decades and its Mumbai leaders know the former’s ways of functioning in the civic body.
Fulfilling the expectations of the people
Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray made lots of promises while seeking votes in civic polls. Now since his party is ruling the BMC, there will be expectations from him. Fulfilling them will be quite a task considering the way the BMC functions. With a hostile BJP and aggressive Opposition, every failure of the Sena in the BMC would be highlighted. Battling this would be quite a task for Thackeray and his team. Significantly, there will be interference of the state government in BMC’s functioning. Municipal Commissioner has more powers than the ruling party and he reports to urban development department headed by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.
Competing with the BJP led government
The next assembly elections are due in 2019. In a bid to retain its tally of 15 seats or even winning more, the BJP is likely to go whole hog in wooing Mumbai citizens in next two years. Chief Minister Devendra is personally supervising mega infrastructure projects such as seven new metro routes, developing an international finance centre, building a sealink to connect Mumbai with the mainland and the coastal road on Mumbai’s west coast. The BJP plans to showcase work on these projects as its achievements in the next assembly polls. The Sena will have to plan civic projects to show its performance but it may not match the state government’s capacity when it comes to finance and planning.
Allegations against Mayor Vishwanath Mahadeshwar is an embarrassment for the Sena. He is accused of occupying a flat in a housing project meant for civic employees and forcibly buying a flat from a retired BMC employee. Further, he is accused of drawing salary from a government aided college even as he was contesting elections. An independent candidate has filed a case against Mahadeshwar and if he is found guilty of violation of rules, he faces disqualification. In that case, it will be an unwanted headache for Thackeray.