The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation election results threw up the possibility of a tie-up between the Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party after the two parties finished neck and neck in the race to take control of the country’s richest civic body.
The Shiv Sena finished with 84 seats in the 227-member body, with the BJP just two seats behind at 82. The Congress was a distant third with 31 seats, with former alliance partner the Nationalist Congress Party taking nine seats. Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena managed just seven seats.
The results for 10 civic bodies in Maharastra were declared on Thursday. The BJP emerged as the clear winner in eight corporations, losing out only in Thane and Mumbai.
With no party getting a clear majority in Mumbai, it is down to the BJP and the Shiv Sena to figure out how they will reach the halfway mark of 114 seats. The easiest route to power would be for the two parties to join hands, which neither ruled out.
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While Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said the BJP’s core committee would take a call on the alliance, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray said to wait 2-3 days to see who blinks first. But he caused a flutter later on by saying that both the next Mumbai mayor and the next Maharashtra Chief Minister would be from the Shiv Sena.
Thackeray’s parting shot was significant because in the build-up to the civic polls, the Shiv Sena chief had said the BJP government in Maharashtra was on “notice period”, suggesting that the Sena’s support to the BJP could be withdrawn at any time.
The parties were allies for a quarter of a century before the Sena decided to go it alone in these elections.
While the focus was firmly on Mumbai, the BJP was the winner in the bigger scheme of things as it made in-roads across the state. Even in Mumbai, it raised its tally from just 31 seats in the 2012 civic body elections to 82 this time around. The Shiv Sena had won 75 seats in 2012.
“Our politics consists of trust and transparency,” said Fadnavis. “This result is a reflection that people have accepted our style of governance. No other party in the last 25 years has got such a wonderful result.” He added that the pan-Maharashtra result was a mandate on the note ban that was implemented last November.
The photo finish did not look possible in the early afternoon as leads pegged the Shiv Sena at 94 seats and on track to claim a majority. At one stage, the Sena’s tally was double that of the BJP. However, those leads did not turn into victories as the BJP quickly clawed back to within touching distance.
The Congress’ fall from 52 seats in 2012 prompted the resignation of city Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam, even as party leader Milind Deora admitted to infighting in the party.