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Shiv Sena, BJP & the big 'mock-fight' for MCGM: 2019 polls will be a whole different ballgame

Pratap Thorat | Updated on: 24 February 2017, 17:08 IST
(Arya Sharma/Catch News)

Condemned for long as a party of mere Brahmins and Banias, the BJP has made serious inroads in Maharashtra's Maratha dominated polity. The party has done exceedingly in the recent civic polls and its success spread across cities as well as the interiors.

More interestingly, they proved a formidable match to their noisy ex-ally - Uddhav Thackery’s Shiv Sena, in his Mumbai citadel.

Especially in western Maharashtra, fortress after fortress of Maratha strongmen crumbled. Sharad Pawar’s Pimpri-Chinchwad and Pune Municipal Corporations went to the BJP. Vilasrao Deshmukh’s Latur Zilla Parishad, in Marathwada, went to the BJP. In late Vasantdada Patil’s Sangli, they made NCP strongman Jayant Patil bite dust.

Of the 10 municipal corporations, the BJP single-handedly won eight, while Uddhav won only one (Thane).

In Mumbai (227 seats), Sena emerged as the largest single party (84), while the BJP jumped from 31 to 82 – a feat in itself. Maharashtra is one of the most urbanised states in India (nearly 55%) and the equation here is – the one who rules cities rules the state.

Of the 25 Zilla Parishads, the BJP is in a position to rule on its own in about 14, dominating these bodies almost totally in Vidarbha and north Maharashtra and having made big inroads in many formidable fiefs in the hitherto unconquered western Maharashtra and Marathwada.

There were a few saving graces for its opponents – Sharad Pawar won the Pune body, Ashok Chavan won Nanded, Opposition leader Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil Ahmednagar and Narayan Rane Sindhudurg.

 

Smart move

The state BJP was clever enough to not invite Narendra Modi and Amit Shah to campaign here as that would have brought in the ugly demonetisation issue that has tormented the farmers in rural Maharashtra and the Gujarathi traders in Mumbai. Now they are free to distort the results as a mandate for demonetisation.

 The BJP and Sena’s strategy was to fight the fiercest mock-battle with each other, only to deny the opposition Congress any space in the media. Another strategy was to create a picture that the NCP is close to Modi and the BJP.

However, the old and well-rehearsed successful ploy of mock battles in a couple of earlier local polls, may not come handy in the real Assembly election in 2019. Both parties in power threw a lot of dirt on each other during the campaign, but they may hug each other tight after the results. After some full-throated roars of dissent, Uddhav could return as a mewing, loyal and greedy domestic cat. And that’s it.

During the campaigns, a chuckling Sharad Pawar was basking in the glory of a Padma Vibhushan and Modi’s tickling words that he had entered real politics holding the fingers of this great Guru.

Modi had not obliged M Karunanidhi with the coveted Padma award, though he has spent more years than Pawar in parliamentary politics. The NCP remained complacent and the voter suspected their togetherness.

 

The Congress' predicament

The Congress party’s propensity for clan squabbles remained legendary and they seemed rudderless and divided. They happily draw power from the power-house of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi but do not care to return anything to the bosses except some headache when it comes to stopping their brawls.

Partymen poured ink over state party chief Ashok Chavan, when he went to Vidarbha to campaign. Gurudas Kamat and Narayan Rane found it urgent to cross swords with the Mumbai unit chief Sanjay Nirupam in the midst of a campaign. It was not a priority for the Congressman to fight the BJP or the Sena. Their real enemy was the other competing faction within the party.

The Congress has been drawing its political power from western Maharashtra and Marathwada, for decades, from the milk and sugar co-operatives and co-operative banks.

But under Pawar’s stewardship, coupled with their own enthusiasm and greed they indulged in privatising the sugar co-operatives. They also took pleasure and pride in looting the district co-operative banks.

This has led to a big weakening of their political hold over their fiefdoms. That has also worsened the lot of the farmers and orphaned them and opened up the field for the BJP and the Sena to make inroads.

Faking it?

On the other side, enmity between the Sena and the BJP rages, though they are bound together by the glue of power. They have strategically found an outlet in electioneering to let off the steam. This time, they created fought the dirtiest poll campaign in the history of Maharashtra.

The partners forgot that they would be back to their seats of power once the mock-battle is over. Uddhav called Chief Minister Devendra Fadanavis ‘half-mad’ even as the BJP leaders kept describing him repeatedly as the ‘Mafia boss’.

The BJP harped during the campaigns that the Mumbai municipal corporation was long stained by dismal management of its affairs under the Sena, conveniently forgetting that they were in partnership all the 25 years.

The BJP declared launching of a crusade against the graft and sleaze of the Sena in Mumbai’s civic body which is the richest such body in the country, with an annual budget of Rs 37,000 crore.

They smeared each other with a lot of dirt and caused an irreparable damage to their respective images. In spite of winning elections, these two Hindu parties may find that the surplus heat of the election campaign is likely to melt away their space in the voters’ heart – faster than the holy lingam at Shri Amarnath as they draw closer to the 2019 poll.

Edited by Jhinuk Sen

First published: 24 February 2017, 17:08 IST
 
Pratap Thorat

Pratap Thorat is a veteran journalist and political commentator

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