Till Wednesday, when Navi Mumbai went to polls, Ganesh Naik cut a sorry figure – a local strongman fighting a losing battle, one who couldn’t hold on to his own seat in the assembly polls, and was trying to clutch onto sliding power.
All that changed on Thursday, with the Nationalist Congress Party winning 52 seats, four more than a resurgent Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) combine.
The victory may not have been as comprehensive as the 2009 landslide, but is significant as the saffron parties, fighting separately in the assembly polls, had won 90,000 more votes than NCP.
Just how did Naik manage the turnaround? The complacence of the Sena-BJP and Naik’s clinical mobilising of his core voter base seem to be the answers.
The saffron parties had a lot going for them – the state government had approved long-pending demands such as 2. floor space index for old CIDCO buildings and cluster redevelopment. With a BJP government at the Centre and the state, the civic body in their control could’ve been beneficial for Navi Mumbai. This seems to have made them smug.
“We knew our strengths, going into these polls. We targeted three core communities – the Agris community, the Mathadis and the Muslims. We ensured these groups came out to vote,” said a close Naik aide.
The opposition failed in doing exactly that, locals said. “Our analysis of the polling pattern shows that the BJP’s core constituency – the middle classes as well as migrants – failed to turn up in large numbers,” the aide said.
Still, the win did not come easy, said NCP leaders. “Our voters were disillusioned and confused, especially since Naik and his family were, till very recently, planning to walk out of the NCP,” said a party leader. “The other disadvantage was that the BJP-Sena’s pitch that they were in power at both the State and the Centre.”
For Naik, who had to face the embarrassment of twin defeats – his son, the incumbent MP lost in the Lok Sabha polls – this victory will be a shot in the arm.
NCP state chief Sunil Tatkare attributed the victory to his leadership skills. “The NCP won under his leadership and he deserves credit for it. He emerges stronger from these polls with such a comprehensive victory.”
The victory also denies the Sena-BJP the chance to claw into Navi Mumbai. “Sena has an MP but no MLA, the BJP only has an MLA. Had they bagged the civic body, they would have been emboldened, but Naik has ensured their march is halted,” said a NCP leader.
What the verdict means for the main contestants
BJP: The first lot of major civic elections has not brought cheers for the party. The party put up a poor show in Navi Mumbai and failed to win a majority along with the Sena in Aurangabad. In the two cities, it won just 30 seats and stands third after Shiv Sena and NCP. This could be a warning signal for the ruling party.
Shiv Sena: The elections brought a mixed bag but the party has reasons to be happy. It is close to a majority in Aurangabad and Ambernath, and has won Badlapur. In Navi Mumbai and Aurangabad, it won 66 seats, highest among the main parties
NCP: The Sharad Pawar-led party will find solace in the Navi Mumbai victory. While it is more of Ganesh Naik’s win than the party’s, it will five the demoralized cadre the message that NCP can win elections if it gets the ground calculations right
Congress: More trouble for the beleaguered party, as it lost everywhere. The only civic body it won was the Bhokar municipal council, in sate chief Ashok Chavan’s constituency. The victory is being attributed to Chavan’s election management rather than Congress’ appeal to voters. The bigger worry for the party is the success of AIMIM, because of Muslim and Dalit votes.
WHO THE PEOPLE HAVE CHOSEN:
Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation
Shiv Sena: 38
What this means: No party got a clear majority, although the NCP is close to it. The party needs four members to reach the magic figure of 56. NCP’s Navi Mumbai strongman Ganesh Naik has, however, appealed to the Congress to join forces for achieving a strong majority. While Shiv Sena put an impressive show, the BJP failed miserably despite contesting 46 seats.