Allies Turned Foes to Test Strength in BMC Polls Today
BJP has targeted Thackeray for corruption, while Sena attacked BJP top leadership
Mumbai: The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, the richest civic body in India, and nine other municipal corporations go to polls on Tuesday, with 91 lakh voters (in Mumbai) deciding the fate of top parties in the state – Shiv Sena, BJP and the Congress – in what’s billed to be an engrossing contest. The Shiv Sena, which had been ruling the BMC with the BJP, has decided to go it alone this time around, but is likely to face stiff competition from its former ally.
The partners led a bitter campaign in the run-up to the polls and wasted no opportunity to have a go at each other’s leaders. The BJP has targeted the Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray for corruption in the BMC and has accused him of having ties with firms involved in money laundering.
The Sena too attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah and even Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis with whom Thackeray enjoyed good equations till recently.
The BJP, led by Fadnavis, held 76 rallies in the city, with the chief minister trying everything, from an aggressive television and media campaign to roping in Yogi Adityanath, to attract north Indian voters. The party even liberally distributed tickets to turncoats from the Shiv Sena and other parties. But the BJP is not going to find Thackeray a pushover. In 2012, for instance, the then Congress Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan had said that the Sena was ‘finished’, a statement that Thackeray makes fun of, reminding people that Sena is still relevant, but Chavan is nowhere to be seen.
Sena’s success comes from the support it receives at the grassroots level. It has more than one shakha in every ward and these shakhas look into a range of complaints ranging from clogged drains, eve teasing, to even marital disputes. So the elections would boil down to a fight between the tech-savy BJP and the grassroots shakhas of the Sena.
The biggest advantage that the Sena has over the other parties is it has the
best voting percentage compared to other parties. For instance, every election, out of its total supporters, almost 85 to 90% come out to vote for the party.
The third challenger is the Congress party, but with the entry of the Majlise-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen (MIM), the Congress would find it hard to hold on to its minority vote bank. The party also has to contend with discord within the party between its former MP Gurudas Kamat and current Mumbai Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam.
In the last elections, the MNS ate into the vote bank of the Sena by getting 27 seats, but may not get more than 5 to 6 seats this time. This is also one of the reasons why the Sena’s vote tally is likely to increase.
About 91 lakh voters will exercise their voting rights for BMC and 9 other municipal corporations