Campaigning for the Kalyan Dombivali Municipal Corporation (KDMC) elections in Maharashtra, to be held today, got so intense this week that the Bharatiya Janata Party finally lost its cool with the Shiv Sena, its ruling ally at the state level. For the first time in the run-up to the election, which the BJP and Sena are fighting separately, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis was seen talking aggressively not just against Sena ministers in his own Cabinet, but also against Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray. Until now, the BJP was greatly restrained while facing non-stop barbs from the Sena. Earlier, Fadnavis had gone out of his way to say that his party would not take any note of the statements made by any other Sena leader except Uddhav Thackeray. He had also said that his government would complete its full term. However, the attack from the Sena leaders got so bitter that the CM on Friday, while campaigning in Dombivali, was seen thundering against the Sena, including Uddhav Thackeray. Thackeray had earlier said that the BJP had only seen Sena’s friendship, “but you have not yet seen our tiger nails.” In response, the CM thundered, “Till now, I had thought some people are good. I had believed in their goodness… Don’t try to scare us with your tiger nails. We are the kind of people who thrust our hands in the tiger’s mouth and count its teeth. Show your paws to Congress or NCP. They might get afraid of them.”
He also said that the Sena had created terror in KDMC and that the BJP would complain to the Election Commission against their rule of terror: “Show me one instance where a BJP worker is involved in any violence or attack. You people try to kill a BJP candidate when you feel you might lose the polls. Where does this culture of violence come from?”
Criticising the Sena for equating the BJP with Indira Gandhi’s rule during Emergency, Fadnavis said, “Where was Sena when the Emergency was declared? We have fought the Emergency.”
The two parties split ways for the KDMC polls after Fadnavis said that the Sena’s protest against Pakistan’s ex-Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri brought disgrace to Maharashtra. The Sena taunted Fadnavis by retorting that it was his generosity towards Kasuri that had, in fact, brought disgrace to the state. Fadnavis replied that the Sena remembered its anti-Pakistan stand only at the time of election. “Where did Sena’s anti-Pakistan stand go when it invited Javed Miandad? In 2004, they were the ones to invite wanted gangster Dawood Ibrahim’s relative Miandad to Matoshree. We never dined with the Pakistanis,” he said while addressing BJP workers in Dombivali.
Calling the Sena a party of theatrics, he mocked Thane Guardian Minister Eknath Shinde for tendering his resignation to Uddhav Thackeray at a rally on Friday. Shinde had offered his resignation from the state Cabinet to the Sena chief, saying that he could no longer tolerate BJP’s politics. While Thackeray refused to accept the resignation, he also warned the BJP during the rally, “If things go out of hand, I will drag the BJP to the streets. I will not accept the resignation of yours alone, Eknathji.”
The KDMC has been traditionally the stronghold of the Shiv Sena and the BJP who have ruled the corporation for nearly 20 years now. These elections are being looked at as a litmus test for their relations. Both parties are anxious about losing their power base in the constituency.
Meanwhile, voters in Kalyan-Dombivali are upset that the real issues of public concern such as illegal construction, traffic mismanagement, solid waste disposal, increasing number of slums have been ignored during the campaigning. Additionally, the BJP faces some dissent from the extended Sangh Parivar, a section of which is unhappy for being denied candidature by the party. In fact, the Brahman Sangh has appealed to the Brahmins of Kalyan and Dombivali to vote against the BJP. Amidst this, Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena has jumped into the fray, accusing the BJP of forgetting its roots. Raj Thackeray has focused on MNS’ work in the Nashik corporation so far, and is talking of the development projects his party will undertake if given a chance in KDMC. The Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party are barely seen as a challenge by any of the major players.
Kolhapur city in western Maharashtra is also going to the polls today. The Sena and BJP are fighting separately in that municipal corporation as well.