BMC polls today: What the elections mean for Devendra Fadnavis, Uddhav Thackeray
The mandate for Mumbai and nine other big cities — besides the 10 district councils — on Tuesday (along with 15 other district councils that went to polls on February 16) — is likely to do two things: determine the fate of the main political parties in Maharashtra and give a referendum on the BJP-led Devendra Fadnavis government.mumbai Updated: Feb 21, 2017 08:45 IST
The mandate for Mumbai and nine other big cities — besides the 10 district councils — on Tuesday (along with 15 other district councils that went to polls on February 16) — is likely to do two things: determine the fate of the main political parties in Maharashtra and give a referendum on the BJP-led Devendra Fadnavis government. (LIVE UPDATES)
With all the four main political parties – Shiv Sena, BJP, Congress and NCP – striking out on their own, every party is looking at these polls with an eye on the next big one, the 2019 assembly elections. Besides, there are other parties such as the MNS, which is fighting for relevance in state polity, and the AIMIM, which is trying to push its presence in the state.
The results of this mini-assembly elections, which are underway, will shape the 2019 battle even as it gives a clear picture of the parties’ existing strengths. And given the bitterness between the ruling saffron allies, these results can also potentially change the political dynamics of the sitting government.
“The poll results will give us early trends for 2019. Can the Sena retain Mumbai? Has the Modi wave eroded? Has demonetisation come at a cost for the BJP ? Can the Congress-NCP retain their rural strongholds? The results will give us answers to these questions, which in turn can shape political futures,” said political analyst Prakash Bal.
For the ruling BJP and chief minister Fadnavis, this is a high-stakes battle with good performance proving that the party has been able to consolidate its position after its 2014 victory and expand its footprint across the state. Gaining greater control of Mumbai, the country’s financial capital, will help the party prove its dominance over its belligerent ally.
BJP’s friend-turned-foe, the Sena, on the other hand, is fighting a battle of survival with all its strength focused on its citadel, Mumbai. If the Sena emerges as the single-largest party in the Mumbai civic body with a good lead over others, the party retains its citadel and gains an upper hand in the saffron alliance. Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray will not only be able to keep his flock together, he will also be in a position to bargain better with Fadnavis and keep his government on its toes.
“If the Sena manages to get 80 to 85 seats, Thackeray’s bargaining power increases in the state and the Fadnavis-government will become vulnerable,” Bal added.
If the Sena does badly and comes second to the BJP in Mumbai, Thackeray will have to fight against tide to remain relevant.
“For every seat we win in Mumbai over our existing 31 corporators in the civic body, we are making space for our organisation in electoral wards and constituencies where we had no presence earlier. This is of course a preparation for 2019. Similarly, if we make inroads in district councils it will be at the cost of the NCP and the Congress’ rural bastions,” said a senior BJP functionary.
Away from the high-decibel Mumbai battle, the results to district councils will decide if the Congress, nursing a debilitating defeat in 2014, can get a fresh lease. If the party manages to retain its tally in the district councils that govern rural areas, the inference will be that the BJP is no longer invincible and the Congress’ grassroots structure is still valid.
Similarly, the party’s performance in Mumbai will show whether the minority vote bank is back with the party. And its score in other cities will show its standing in urban areas.
For the NCP, which was the numero uno party in rural Maharashtra in the last 2012 district council polls, these elections will decide the party’s relevance in the state. A rout in its strongholds will put a question mark on the party’s organizational capabilities and electoral future. The party is also trying to retain its power in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad civic bodies where it is facing stiff competition by the BJP.
And, for the MNS, these polls results will decide if party’s chief Raj Thackeray can fight another day.