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Why civic polls are crucial for parties

mumbai Updated: Nov 23, 2011 01:05 IST
Shailesh Gaikwad
Shailesh Gaikwad
Hindustan Times

For the next two months, Mumbaiites can expect to see a high-pitched battle for the control of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), one of the biggest and richest civic bodies in India.

Five parties — the Shiv Sena, BJP, Congress, NCP and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena — will be locked in a bitter tussle to win the civic polls, likely to be held in the first week of February.

What makes political parties fight so hard for control of the BMC?

It brings influence and power. “Controlling the city, India’s financial capital, means wielding more clout in state and even national politics,” said Surendra Jondhale, political analyst.

It is one of the key reasons the Sena is still a force to reckon with, despite losing three successive Assembly elections and suffering two splits.

With an annual budget higher than that of some of India’s small states — its 2011-12 budget is Rs 21,096 crore — the BMC is a powerhouse.

The party controlling the BMC is favoured by the builders’ lobby, a significant source of funds for political parties.

This time, the stakes are also high for players like Uddhav and Raj Thackeray.

For the Sena-BJP alliance, the civic polls could be a turning point. If Uddhav retains the BMC by beating anti-incumbency, he will be able to check the growth of his cousin’s fledgling MNS. It will also give Uddhav the platform to realise his dream of becoming the state’s chief minister. On the other hand, he may be unable to keep his flock together if he loses.

The Congress-NCP combine is also dead serious about fighting for a victory. For the Congress, a win will be a morale-booster as it reels under scams and the anti-corruption campaign. The party can use the victory to claim it is the people’s response to the campaign against it. Failure would mean the party has to battle a resurgent Sena-BJP and a 15-year incumbency factor during the 2014 Assembly polls.