Political observers predict a hung house in the BMC elections following a split between the Shiv Sena and the BJP.
Elections to the Brihan Mumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), which is the country’s richest civic body, will be held in February and political observers are expecting a split verdict. The reason: A split between the Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Campaigning is going on in right earnest in 15 zilla parishads and 165 panchayat samitis for which voting will take place February 16 while elections to the remaining 11 zilla parishads, 118 panchayat samitis and 10 municipal corporations in Maharashtra will be held on February 21.
Disagreements over seat sharing in the BMC had triggered the split between the ruling alliance of Shiv Sena and BJP. BJP wanted 114 out of the total 227 but the Sena only willing to concede 60. Currently BJP has 33 corporators, Shiv Sena has 75, Congress and the NCP have 52 and 13 each, Samajwadi Party has 9 seats and Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) has 28 members in the BMC.
Without an alliance between Congress and NCP, the civic body is headed towards a multi cornered fight. Asaddudin Owaisi-led All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), Samajwadi Party and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena are fielding candidates. For the first time in the past more than two decades, all major political parties are contesting the elections for the country’s richest civic body.
“This is just the beginning. Zilla Parishad and civic elections are our main focus,” Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut told Governance Now. Refuting any chances of NCP or Congress benefitting out of the alliance breaking off, Raut stressed only Shiv Sena will benefit.
Governance Now spoke to some political observers on the wider impact of the Shiv Sena-BJP split.
Kumar Ketkar, a political commentator, said, “The real analysis can only be done after UP elections. Mumbai civic elections results will be out on Feb 23 while UP state results will come on March 11. Till then they will keep on campaigning against each other. Shiv Sena will campaign very hard against BJP and BJP will do the same against Shiv Sena. But don’t think anyone will get majority.”
Ketkar added that BJP’s popularity has come down in the last six months.
“Possibly, SS (Shiv Sena) can get slightly more seats than the BJ. It can take a daring step of withdrawing from the government, which is not very likely to happen.”
Commenting on a possible threat to the Shiv Sena from Congress and NCP, Ketkar said that NCP has no roots in Mumbai and has no chance of winning in Mumbai and Congress too won’t gain. ”The essential beneficiary of anti-BJP vote will be SS.”
Political analyst Prakash Bal Joshi said, “Both the SS and BJP are repeating the experiment of Kalyan Dombivali Municipal Corporation elections where there were many allegations against each other. But when the results came out it was a hung house and they eventually joined hands. In any corporation election due to less number of voters, (victory) margins too are less. Ideologically different political opponents like Congress and NCP get less number of seats and rebel candidates have to be tackled separately. There is also space for accommodating more parties.”
On reports of MNS desirous of a tactical alliance with Shiv Sena, he said, “Right from the start, MNS has been adopting anti-Congress policies. Even if it joins hands with Sena, their main fight will be with Congress and NCP.”
However, Surendra Jondhale, professor and head of department, civic and politics, University of Mumbai, said, “SS and MNS will not ally. Why will SS strengthen and provide political space to MNS, when it has been talking against Uddhav Thackeray.”
On Shiv Sena attracting Marathi votes, Joshi said the percentage of Marathi votes has substantially reduced in the last 10 years. With the SS adopting a more aggressive ‘hindutva’ ideology, they are attracting votes which might have gone to some other fragmented parties. In BJP, some people may not be on the same page with their ideas. Following only Marathi base, they cannot win votes on their own so they are expanding their base. They have inducted many Gujarati leaders in the last 15 days and getting people from Congress and NCP also.
Jondhale added, ”SS does not have monopoly over Marathi voters who have been voting for all parties, otherwise how would have BJP and Congress won in last elections. Marathis will also vote for BJP. The anti-incumbency factor will not work in favour of Shiv Sena and BJP is banking on that in BMC elections.”