BJP & Sena, Kiss and Make Up; and Govern
The BJP has done exceedingly well in Maharashtra’s local government elections, although it narrowly trails the Shiv Sena in Mumbai. The Sena and the BJP, having demonstrated their independent might in their respective spheres of influence, should kiss and make up now, and focus on running the state government and local bodies jointly and well. Sena boss Uddhav Thackeray has shown his Sena rival MNS its place, demonstrated the party’s clout in Mumbai per se and his own ability to lead his partymen. But he must accept that the BJP’s showing has been nothing short of stellar in Mumbai and across Maharashtra. The Sena and the BJP now have a realistic assessment of each other’s strength, enough to recalibrate their alliance and move on together. The BJP will gain in Uttar Pradesh, too, from its relative success in Maharashtra. While the prime minister did not mention demonetisation in his statement on the Maharashtra results, and cited development and good governance as the BJP’s source of popular support, there is no gainsaying that the results dent the claim that people have been seriously put off by demonetisation. The message will not be lost on Uttar Pradesh’s voters, even if it does not decisively influence their voting preferences. The Congress has much to learn. One, it must come to terms with the fact that after the death of Vilasrao Deshmukh five years ago, it has no credible leader in Maharashtra. Two, appointing people like Sanjay Nirupam, who defected from the Sena, to positions like Mumbai party chief pays no dividends; loyalists like Gurudas Kamat might have done a better job. The NCP is also losing ground. Raj Thackeray’s MNS, once assumed to be ‘real’ heir of Balasaheb’s legacy, has been shown up to have no electoral heft.