BJP eyes Mumbai civic body elections

From corruption cases against ruling party leaders to national leaders for campaigning, the state unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is gearing up for the local body elections, especially for the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) polls, which are expected to be held in January-February next year
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Published on Jun 21, 2021 12:11 AM IST
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By Surendra P Gangan, Mumbai

From corruption cases against ruling party leaders to national leaders for campaigning, the state unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is gearing up for the local body elections, especially for the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) polls, which are expected to be held in January-February next year.

Termed as mini Assembly elections, 23 municipal corporations, including Mumbai civic body, 29 district councils and more than 90 municipal councils will go to polls from September-October this year till the end of next year. It is expected that the outcome of results show whether people are happy with the ruling parties and whether the BJP managed to retain hold of the local self-government bodies it won the last time. The most talked-about election is likely to be Mumbai civic polls. The BJP will try to wrest power from the Shiv Sena, which is ruling the BMC for over two decades. The BJP, which has just two seats less than the Shiv Sena in the 2017 BMC polls, has vowed to win power in India’s richest civic body this time.

In its recent core committee meeting held in Mumbai in the presence of party’s national leader BL Santosh and CT Ravi, the party discussed the strategy for the forthcoming elections. It was followed by a meeting of key Mumbai leaders to strategise for the Mumbai polls. According to insiders, the party is planning to constitute a core committee of top leaders to handle Mumbai civic polls, amid internal differences within the party’s city unit. Currently, the Shiv Sena’s strength in the 227-seat body is 97, after it engineered defection of corporators from other parties after civic polls. It had won 84 seats in 2017, while the BJP had jumped to 82 seats from 31 seats in 2012. The Congress and NCP have 29 and 8 corporators each. The SP has six, while Maharashtra Navnirman Sena has 1.

The Hyderabad way?

The BMC polls are likely to be keenly contested, just the way the BJP made a serious effort to win the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) in Telangana. The elections in December last year saw national leaders of the BJP campaigning for the polls, in which the party emerged second largest party by winning 48 seats, from just four it had in the 150-seat civic house. Party leaders, including union home minister Amit Shah, party’s national chief JP Nadda, Uttar Pradesh’s chief minister Yogi Aaditya Nath and several union ministers, came for campaigning.

“With an annual budget of 39,039 crore, the BMC is the civic body which surpasses many smaller states in its annual outlay. The party controlling India’s richest civic body that governs financial capital wields significant political influence. We were short of just two seats last time and would have been in power if we wanted to. This time around, our aim is to cross the mark of 100 seats and have our mayor,” said a party leader, requesting anonymity.

The leader said the BMC polls would not be fought on the Hindutva plank, like GHMC elections. He said that the party will play the development card, exposing how two-and-a-half decades of Shiv Sena rule has failed to give the city bare minimum amenities.

The party has started galvanising its cadre at micro level under various programmes such as one booth, ten youths, Shakti Kendra and Active Youth Effective Booth in which the party’s youth and women wing workers get actively involved. War rooms in every city and districts that are going to poll are activated, while surveys are being conducted to weigh the party strength in each ward.

The party has been emphasising on the ‘person to person’ and ‘home to home’ contact with voters and has roped in its youth and women wing in Mumbai and other cities that are going to polls. The party has started getting in touch with runner-up contestants from other parties from 2017 elections where the party has no effective face.

All out against Shiv Sena

Though it is said to be all three ruling parties – Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress – versus BJP, the contest is expected to be fought bitterly between the two saffron parties. “The Sena’s strength lies in power in the civic body. We have enough material about the corruption in the civic body gathered against Sena,” said a key BJP leader.

“It was possible for us to grab power in the BMC in 2017 too, but we followed the dharma of friendship and let Sena elect the mayor. But it’s enough now,” Fadnavis had said recently while addressing party workers from Mumbai.

Shiv Sena leader Sachin Ahir said, “We have started mobilising our workers at shakha level. The state has done a very good job in Covid-19 management and infrastructure works.”

Political analyst Hemant Desai said, “Corruption has been raked up by opposition in every BMC poll, but the Sena has kept its power intact.”

The BJP is expected to make a few internal changes. There is a buzz that the party leadership is not happy with its city chief Mangal Prabhat Lodha. The party is also looking to get MNS to dent the Sena in MMR.

BJP leader Sudhir Mungantiwar said, “We are preparing to emerge single largest party and get the power in the civic body. We have started outreach programme. We will go to the voters with the development plank.” He insisted there would be no core group, but all senior leaders will guide city leaders.

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Saturday, October 23, 2021