It may have been reduced to being the BJP’s junior partner at the state level. But the stars seem to have aligned for the Shiv Sena ahead of the polls to the country’s richest municipal corporation. It has emerged as the only party with a clear advantage from the recent delimitation exercise in Mumbai.
A ward-wise analysis of all sitting corporators vis-à-vis the new ward constitution after delimitation shows that while four administrative wards that are the party’s mainstay areas have been unaffected, four more administrative wards with a majority Sena presence will see an increase in electoral seats. This is likely to help position the party, which currently has 75 corporators in the BMC, to improve its numbers.
In some of the northern suburbs where the Sena has a majority, electoral seats are set to increase from the existing 44 to 51. These include four administrative wards of R North (Dahisar), P North (Malad), P South (Goregaon) and L ward (Kurla). The party’s other bastions comprising K East (Jogeshwari, Andheri), F North (Sion, Matunga), F South (Parel), and G North (Dadar, Mahim) have been unaffected by the delimitation process.
Although the G North ward currently has a majority of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) corporators, it has been a Sena stronghold with the party having germinated here. Surendra Jondhale, who heads Mumbai University’s Department of Civics and Politics, said, “The situation is strategically advantageous to the Sena. If the BJP and Sena fight elections separately, the BJP will be at the receiving end and will have to put in much more effort because the battle lines have become more competitive. There is a political compulsion for both the parties to come together, but the Sena will be ready for an alliance only if it gets to retain majority control of the corporation.”
Unlike in the 2012 polls when the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) ate into several Sena votes, any threats from the Raj Thackeray-led party this time are likely to be contained as the party struggles to stay afloat. In the last BMC polls, the MNS pointedly chipped into the Sena’s vote share, sweeping its home turf of Dadar and Mahim, to get 28 of its corporators elected. However, in the following Lok Sabha and assembly elections, the party was decimated, losing all seats it contested in the former, and reducing its tally from 13 to a single MLA in the latter.
Jondhale said, “For the MNS, this election is about political survival.”
Unlike most other parties, the detrimental effect of the delimitation on the Sena is also likely to be limited. There are four administrative wards where the Sena has a majority and where the number of councilor seats is to dip for the 2017 elections. However, despite this, any direct impact on the Sena will be diluted as the party’s majority in three out of four of these wards is very thin, and there are several other parties having a significant enough presence to share the blow.
Mumbai has 24 administrative wards with each of them having multiple councilor wards, totalling 227. Ahead of the 2017 polls, the city’s electoral map has been redrawn to change the constitution of councilor wards owing to a shift in population towards the suburbs, leading to corporators across parties fretting over losing their vote bank.