VENKATESH KESARI | 23 FEBRUARY, 2017

BMC Polls: Mumbai With SS, Maharashtra With BJP, Congress Wiped Out


AURANGABAD: The Shiv Sena has checked the senior ally BJP in Mumbai in the crucial BMC polls which witnessed an open fight between the Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.

In the process the Congress, MNS and the Sharad Pawar led Nationalist Congress party have been completely marginalised not just in Mumbai in all the municipal polls.

The BJP has emerged stronger, and in the lead in Nagpur, Pune, Nasik, Solapur, Amravati and Akola municipal corporation elections.

In Thane,the Shiv Sena has to rely on the BJP's support while in Pimpri-Chinchwad the NCP will have to take support of either the Shishir Sena or the BJP,as per the early indications.

Mumbai, Pune, Thane, Nashik and Pimpri Chnichwad are the key industrial, corporate sectors and IT hubs in Maharashtra. Mumbai is the richest municipal corporation in the country and one that the Shiv Sena had pulled out all plugs to win. Initial responses from SS leaders to reporters in Mumbai already suggest that there is not going to be a re-think---at least in immediate terms---to renew the alliance at the state level with the BJP, more so as the party has gained ground in Mumbai as well ringing alarm bells for the Shiv Sena leadership.

In the Congress party, the blame game has begun with the leaders questioning the decision of Congress top brass Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi to repose faith in Ashok Chavan and Sanjay Nirupam, the Maharashtra and Mumbai Congress chiefs respectively.

Sanjay Nirupam, former Shiv Sainik and a one time confidante of Bal Thackeray, failed to bring unity in the Mumbai Congress by trying to marginalize Gurudas Kamat, Narayan Rane, Krupa Shankar Singh, Milind Deora and Congress loyalists. He has now offered to resign. Ashok Chavan did not stir out of his Nanded district and was largely ineffective insofar as these important state elections weere concerned.

The outcome of these municipal corporation elections and Zila parishad polls has made it very clear that the Congress party that had ruled the state for 15 uninterrupted years--1999-2014---has failed to learn any lessons. Or take corrective steps to revive the party in a state that was its home till just two years ago. The party has virtually dissolved into factions, conceding all space to an aggressive BJP.

Besides, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray has managed to usurp almost the entire opposition space in Maharashtra even after sharing power in Delhi, and till recently the state, with the BJP. By breaking the alliance, and with strong statements against the BJP, he has ensured that the Shiv Sena is now perceived as the main opposition to the ruling party at both the state and centre. His Shiv Sena fought the state assembly and the local body elections against the BJP at a time when the NCP could not intensify its attack against the saffron party, despite the deep unrest amongst the Marathas who had hit the streets on the issue of reservation, and had demonstrated their anger and their strength.

The Shiv Sena has reached out to Gujarat Patidar leader Hardik Patel, felicitating him in Mumbai. But this did not help it to emerge out of an insignifcant status in the second capital Nagpur,Vidarbha region and even in Pune.

These local body polls are seen in Maharashtra as mini assembly polls. An adverse impact on the Congress, with leaders defecting to the Shiv Sena or the BJP, is likely to be the next immediate development.

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