An irrelevant Congress watches the BJP bloom across Maharashtra as Shiv Sena holds on to the heartland, changing the course of the state’s politics.
By Nachiket Deuskar | February 23, 2015
The Shiv Sena has grabbed the spotlight on a day when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been the best performer. This shows us the power-tussle in Maharashtra politics between the Sena and the BJP in the last fortnight.
The BJP and the Shiv Sena had contested the 2014 Assembly Elections separately only to form a post-poll alliance after the people delivered a fractured mandate. The BJP managed to scoop more seats than the Shiv Sena and has since dominated the alliance as well as state politics. Shiv Sena, which has played the big brother to the BJP in both the previous governments in the state, was left gasping for relevance in spite of being a part of the government.
Against this backdrop, the civic body elections were held across Maharashtra recently.
These 10 municipal corporations included six major cities, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), Nagpur (NMC), Nashik, Pimpri-Chinchwad (PCMC), Pune (PMC) and Thane (TMC) and four minor corporations, Akola, Amaravati, Solapur and Ulhasnagar.
The BMC was run by a Shiv Sena-BJP alliance. However, the two parties decided to contest separately after the growing strain in their relationship.
BJP has been on the rise across Maharashtra for the last three years. It has been consolidating its position in Vidarbha in the absence of any major opposition. After the Nationalist Congress Party’s (NCP) poor performance in both Pune and its neighboring city Pimpri-Chinchwad, over the last term, there was a strong sense of anti-incumbency. And, the BJP has successfully capitalized on it.
Similarly in Nashik, which is Maharashtra Navnirman Sena’s (MNS) only seat of power, votes have been offered to the BJP on a platter after MNS’s poor performance.
Hence, BJP’s win in Nagpur, Nashik and Pune was expected.
Similarly, their ambition was to puncture Shiv Sena’s bastion- Mumbai and heartland Thane.
The Shiv Sena has been at the receiving end of political banter lately and have played the smaller player in state politics. Rise of the BJP has threatened its position as the numero uno of state politics. A BJP win in Mumbai and Thane would have further aggravated the situation.
The Shiv Sena has managed to hold on to Mumbai and Thane. In fact, the Shiv Sena has tightened its grip than ever before, improving its 2007 record. In addition, they have not allowed the BJP to weaken its grip on Thane- a city where Shiv Sena first tasted political victory decades ago.
Having performed well, Shiv Sena now has the ability to turn the tide on the BJP. We can now expect the Shiv Sena asking the BJP to fall in line or else they might threaten to pull out of the state government.
Sharad Pawar, president of the NCP, has publically stated that if Shiv Sena decides to withdraw support from the BJP-led government in the state, “aamhi haath-bhaar lau” (meaning, we will do our bit), hinting at not helping the BJP in that situation.
There have been no takers for both Congress and the MNS. Both have performed poorly in these elections. The NCP has managed to bag the second position in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad, but has lost its bastion there.
The BJP has managed to sweep municipal corporations across Maharashtra due to the lack of opposition and the crumbling Congress. This has been the Congress’ worst performance in 20 years.
As the sun rises over the state tomorrow morning, the picture of the state’s politics will have completely changed.
Featured image: By RaviC (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.