Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and Aaditya involved in planning strategy for the 2022 Mumbai civic elections
While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is preparing for a high-decibel campaign for the February 2022 Mumbai civic polls, on the lines of the recent Hyderabad civic elections, the ruling Shiv Sena has quietly begun work on ground.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) election will be a tough contest for the Sena, as it will go head-to-head with the BJP for the second time since 2017. Political dynamics in the state have altered since then, as the Sena-BJP parted ways in 2019.
According to Sena functionaries, party president and Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray and Aaditya Thackeray are involved in the preparations and the strategy to retain power in one of India’s richest civic bodies. The Sena chief is expected to convene a meeting with senior leaders, ministers and key Mumbai legislators in the coming week to chalk out the party’s plan to retain power in BMC. Maharashtra minister and Shiv Sena leader Aaditya, in a meeting last week, mobilised the functionaries of the party’s youth wing Yuva Sena, which he heads, in each of the 227 electoral wards in Mumbai to publicise the work carried out by the party and by the Sena-led state government. Aaditya, who is also the guardian minister of the Mumbai suburban district, is inspecting, reviewing, and planning projects on-ground to upgrade the Mumbai’s civic and transport infrastructure.
Taking a leaf out of the BJP’s book, the Shiv Sena is focusing on upgrading city’s transport and infrastructure. Thackeray’s recent review of transport and infrastructure projects is an attempt to show the party as pro-development in contrast to their opponent BJP’s claim, political observers said.
Last week, Aaditya held meetings with BMC officials over several issues, including the city’s biggest problem – flooding during monsoon – which earns the Sena most brickbats every year. In a series of tweets following the meeting, Aaditya said they plan to have an integrated transport hub at the city’s entry points and fix 386 flooding spots that have emerged in the city. The environment minister also outlined his “long-term plan” to make Mumbai into a “sponge city, with aquifer recharge, rain water percolation and holding tanks”.
The BJP, which has already announced that it will hoist their ‘pure’ saffron flag atop the BMC headquarters, has targeted the Shiv Sena over the Metro car depot issue and painted the Sena as anti-development. It recently also alleged misdoings in spending of funds meant for Covid relief operations and corruption in handing out contracts to private parties.
Behind the doors, Aaditya has mobilised the Yuva Sena core committee and the 36 vibhag (division) heads of the youth wing. The party that has recently fortified its social media presence through its youth wing will use WhatsApp, other messaging apps, and social media to pass on “information” to people.
A party functionary, who was a part of Aaditya’s recent meeting, said, “Aaditya ji will formally convene a meeting for election preparation once again, but during the interaction with Yuva Sena core committee, Yuva Sena and Yuvati Sena functionaries, he has asked everybody to remain alert and active in their wards. Aaditya ji asked them to make a team of 20 people under each of the division head to promote party work, government’s work to tackle Covid-19. Use of messaging apps will be used to spread information.”
The party could also use ‘Aaditya Samvad’ – a townhall style interaction where Thackeray would interact with the youth. The party had used the event conceptualised by Prashant Kishor’s firm I-PAC as part of Sena’s Lok Sabha campaign in 2019. “Not immediately, but we can go for Aaditya Samvad at the later stage of campaigning,” said a party functionary close to Aaditya.
Meanwhile, Thackeray is expected to convene a meeting of senior leaders to strategise for the elections, after the gram pachayat results are out on January 18. Thackeray, in his interactions with Mumbai legislators, has already asked them to start the ground work in ward levels, a party functionary said.
Political analyst Surendra Jondhale said the Sena will have to activate Shiv Sainiks, as there is a “loss of emotional attachment after the formation of Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) and a communication gap has set in”. “The Shiv Sena has an upper hand going into the election as they are in power in the state. It is a prestigious battle for them to retain power in the BMC,” Jondhale said.