It’s not without reason that the Kalyan-Dombivli municipal elections have evoked such excitement, almost like mini Assembly polls. For one, the BJP and Shiv Sena put on a never before seen display of enmity.
In the end, the Sena emerged as the winner, but couldn’t stop the BJP from increasing its vote base by a massive margin. More importantly though, the success seen by both parties in this election could pave a future where they choose to fly solo again, perhaps in the Mumbai and Thane civic polls as well.
Shiv Sena increased its hold in the KDMC from 31 seats in 2010 to 52 seats this year. Pic/Sameer Markande
With 52 seats, the Sena has emerged on top, 21 seats more than it had won last time. The party may have its mayor in KDMC again - this time without the BJP’s crutches, if the MNS and some independents come to its rescue. Negotiations were underway, was all senior leaders said, unwilling to come on record.
Sena minister Eknath Shinde said the voters did not fall for false promises. “We have worked hard for the people here. Some people had made KDMC elections a prestige issue. The people have shown them real power,” he said, adding that the party has not decided anything on future alliances as yet.
The BJP might not be thrilled with making second place, but campaigners, led by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, can at least derive some satisfaction in having increased the party’s hold in the KDMC significantly — from nine in 2010 to 42 this year. It remains to be seen whether the BJP will join hands with the Sena or continue the rivalry while sitting in the Opposition.
The path ahead
The KDMC polls have again proved that fighting separately can be beneficial to both the BJP and the Sena. Now that they have tasted success in Kalyan-Dombivli, will they take each other on in the Mumbai and Thane polls as well?
With just 15 months to go for elections in the Mumbai and Thane corporations, where the BJP-Sena alliance still holds, the two parties are expected to give this advantage serious thought.
For the record, Fadnavis has said repeatedly, including in an exclusive interview to mid-day (‘Why didn’t they return awards when a scholar’s arm was cut off?’, October 30), that the BJP would have no issues in forging an alliance with the Sena in Mumbai.
But he also told this paper that the decision to form alliances largely depended on how the local party workers felt about it, and this was why the parties had gone their separate ways in the KDMC and Kolhapur polls.
If that yardstick is applied in Mumbai as well, then local BJP workers don’t seem to be in the mood to go along with the Sena either. Even if they agree to it, the BJP could face a major hurdle in sharing Mumbai’s 227 seats with the Sena because the city has more BJP legislators than the Sena.
The BJP is unlikely to settle for anything less than a 50:50 share. State BJP chief Raosaheb Danve said he was confident that the party would be in power in at least 31 municipal corporations and councils — the results for many of these bodies, including in Kalyan-Dombivli and Kolhapur, were declared on Monday.
“The voters have responded to the BJP’s agenda of development. We are committed to make the state better,” he told reporters. In Kolhapur, the BJP allied with a local outfit, Tararani Front, emerging as the single largest combine with 32 out of 81 seats.
Here, the Sena remains a non-entity with just four seats, but it is the Congress, a surprise gainer with 27 seats, along with the NCP (15), that will pose a challenge to the BJP with a post-poll pact.
On the other hand, in the KDMC, the Congress-NCP combine was never considered a serious threat, but still performed more dismally than expected. They had together won 29 seats in 2010, but managed just 6 this time (Congress-4 and NCP-2).
The MNS also witnessed a downslide from 27 sitting corporators to just nine seats this time. Despite this downfall, party leader Raj Thackeray has the power to decide the Sena’s fortune with a possible alliance. In the past, Raj had supported his estranged cousin in some civic bodies in Thane district.
Despite this role of kingmaker, the KDMC results must weigh heavily on Raj’s mind, particularly as he looks ahead to the Mumbai and Thane civic polls. In the BMC elections in 2012, some of the Sena’s votes had titled in his favour, but these same voters did not come to his rescue in the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls last year. Perhaps Raj’s last hope once again lies in Mumbai.