The Matoshree of All Battles
The elections to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), Asia’s richest civic body, are raising political temperatures in India’s financial capital like never before. With friends-turned-foes BJP and Shiv Sena taking up most of the space in the poll campaign, the other two parties in the fray, the Congress and the NCP, are struggling to remain relevant.
Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray has not let up on his attacks on the BJP. He has compared the BJP to a wild bull which needs to be tamed, called it a party of goons, opportunists and much worse. He has also kept the pot boiling by praising the development work that took place during the Congress regime.
Sensing that Thackeray is prone to evoking emotional issues (like his opposition to a separate state of Mumbai), the BJP has smartly forced his hand by keeping the focus on corruption in the BMC. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has made it clear that “transparency” is their main plank this election, a not-so-veiled attack on the Sena which has controlled the corporation for long. “There has been no internal BMC audit in the last couple of years. We are determined to root out the corruption there,” he says. He even levelled a direct attack on Thackeray saying that “he must be feeling the pinch on black money post-demonetisation”.
The strategy seems to be working.
Taken aback, Thackeray has been investing more and more of his time into clarifying that the BJP’s claims are nothing but wild allegations. For this, he has even referred to the economic survey tabled in Parliament on January 31. It mentions that the BMC is the most transparent administration in the country. “Does the BJP believe its own government in Delhi is full of donkeys who have prepared this survey report?” Thackeray tends to shout back when asked about transparency.
Meanwhile, the Congress finds itself on a sticky wicket with infighting at its peak. Four state heavyweights—Gurudas Kamat, Narayan Rane, Naseem Khan and Kripashankar Singh—first announced their intention to ‘sit out’ the campaign protesting Mumbai Congress president Sanjay Nirupam’s “autocratic behaviour” and his unilateral candidate selections but later relented after the high command’s order. “There is a feeling that loyalists are being neglected,” says Congress legislator Anant Gadgil.
Political analysts believe Thackeray’s decision to contest independently of the BJP could benefit the Shiv Sena. He has succeeded in enthusing party workers hitherto demoralised by seeing the Sena reduced to a secondary role in the state government. For the BJP, there’s the prospect of the Sena withdrawing support to the Fadnavis government after the BMC polls. “Our priority will be to save the government,” a state BJP leader said indicating that talks were already under way with “NCP and Congress MLAs”.
With little doubt on which side the NCP will turn if the Sena withdraws support, there seems little chance that the Congress’s 2016 plan to try and instal a Sena-Congress-NCP government led by Thackeray could take shape.
THACKERAY HAS BEEN TRYING HARD TO NIX THE BJP’S ‘TRANSPARENCY’ ALLEGATIONS
Shiv Sena rally in Goregaon TALLY-HO