The Matoshree of All Bat­tles

India Today - - STATES - By Ki­ran D. Tare

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.


Shiv Sena rally in Gore­gaon TALLY-HO

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