With local leaders losing their stronghold after Monday’s delimitation and reservation announcements, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) elections in 2017 will be fought strictly on party lines.
Political experts say the fight will be mainly between current allies Shiv Sena and BJP, with party chiefs Uddhav Thackeray and chief minister Devendra Fadnavis being pitted against each other, while the Congress will play the third fiddle.
There is no official announcement yet on a possible alliance between the saffron parties, but sources said it is unlikely.
The exercise has hit the smaller parties and new entrants, including possible citizen activists, who will have little time to canvass.
While the Sena’s hold over the city will continue to be a strong point, the BJP will benefit from its 2014 Assembly win and the Modi wave, said political analyst Surendra Jondhale. “The city is already the Sena’s bastion. For the BJP, it will be a chance to control the municipality, after gaining dominance over the state. The fight is mainly between the Sena and BJP, while it may give just another chance to Raj Thackarey’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS),” he said.
For the past two years, allies Sena and BJP have differed over several issues in the BMC including LED lights on Marine Drive, potholes on roads, rooftop restaurants, the city’s development plan and the open spaces policy. The Sena has long complained of the state’s interference in BMC matters.
On Monday, the MNS suffered a major setback with its leaders Sandeep Deshpande, Manish Chavan and Santosh Dhuri losing their wards to delimitation and reservations. The MNS has only 22 corporators in the BMC. The story is similar for Samajwadi Party, another small party with 9 corporators in the BMC. Rais Shaikh, SP group leader’s ward 136 and three other wards close by, have been reserved for women. “We have to work on a new strategy,” he said.
Congress corporator Sheetal Mhatre from Dahisar said, “The BJP has not been hit as hard as any other party.”
However, the Congress could benefit if it can consolidate its minority votebank. For instance, some of SP’s Muslim candidates, whose wards have been split or reserved, may prefer to join the Congress to better their chances. Analysts say the exercise will now open a Pandora’s box that will work against the “spirit of democracy.”
Milind Mhaske from Praja, an organization working towards transparency in governance, said that it is only heavy-weights who will benefit from the exercise. “It is a sad reality as corporators will now shift to these dominant parties; make their family members regain their wards. Corporators from smaller parties have to make a fresh start altogether,” Mhaske said.