‘The municipal polls are a prestige battle for both the Shiv Sena and BJP’.
New Delhi: The battle lines are drawn for the much awaited Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) elections which is a very crucial election for the Shiv Sena. The Municipal Corporation elections are due in February 2022. The Shiv Sena which is heading the coalition government in Maharashtra is deputing all the Member of Legislative Assembly (MLAs), Member of Legislative Council (MLCs) and other senior leaders for the upcoming polls.
It is being speculated in political circles that consultation groups have also been deployed by the party to oversee the preparation as it is not short of funds to fight the polls. The Mumbai region is the political epicenter for the Shiv Sena and a majority of its legislators come from the region.
Talking to The Sunday Guardian, Hemant Ambekar, a senior political analyst based in Mumbai, said, “The BMC polls are the ‘Mini-Assembly’ elections in Maharashtra for the Shiv Sena and the BJP. Both the parties are the dominant players in the region. NCP had no base here, while the Indian National Congress’s base had eroded in the recent past. Hence, both the main contenders will fight the battle with a lot of energy. If you see the whole of Maharashtra, even now the BJP is weak in some regions, and Shiv Sena is basically a Mumbai and adjoining region-based party. Therefore, it is deploying all its energy to win the battle of BMC. I have been told that the party chief had started preparations for the BMC polls last year itself after the first Covid wave. But, the second wave which wreaked havoc in Maharashtra stopped it for some time, but now, the party is back in action. Out of the 220-odd wards, the party is targeting the 82 wards which have been won by the BJP in the last election as it feels the anti-incumbency against the local candidates will help the Shiv Sena. Moreover, it is certain that the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) will ally with the Shiv Sena in the BMC elections and the party hopes to get the majority of the Marathi votes this time.”
The BMC is the largest corporation in the country with an annual budget of over Rs 35,000 crore and has been single-handedly run by the Shiv Sena for over three decades since 1989. In the 2017 BMC polls, Shiv Sena and the BJP, who were alliance partners in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), had contested against each other with Shiv Sena winning 84 seats and the BJP winning 82 seats. The Shiv Sena formed a government with the help of independents. Out of the party’s 56 MLAs, 29 are from Mumbai-Konkan belt.
Recently, the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government led by the Shiv Sena has completed two years and despite winning 105 seats on its own and having support of 120 MLAs, the saffron party was not able to form a government in the state in 2019 and in the recent bypoll in Deglur-Biloli Assembly seat, the BJP’s candidate Subhash Sabne lost by a margin of 41,000 votes from Indian National Congress candidate Jitesh Antapurkar.
A senior Mumbai BJP leader Ganesh Agarkar said, “The municipal elections are a prestige battle for both of us. The way the Shiv Sena cheated us after the outcome of 2019 Assembly elections, the BMC polls is giving us an opportunity to take our revenge from them. The Shiv Sena has been ruling the BMC since 1989, and there is an anti-incumbency against them. We would certainly benefit from it. Moreover, the people in Mumbai want a BJP-governed BMC which can solve their problems.”