Elections to the cash-rich Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) in 227 municipal wards are underway on Tuesday. 2275 candidates are in the fray in what is being dubbed as a “mini-Assembly election”. Over 1.95 crore voters across the state are entitled to vote to choose representatives for ten city corporations. Apart from the ten civic bodies, the second phase of polling for 11 Zilla Parishads (ZPs) and 118 panchayat samitis is also underway where over 1.80 crore people can cast their votes.
It is a five corner contest between parties like Bharatiya Janata party (BJP), Shiv Sena, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Congress. But all eyes are on the former allies Shiv Sena and the BJP who are fighting it alone in BMC elections 2017 for the first time after they broke their 20-year-old alliance. But what does this mean for the politics of the state?
Demonetisation: It is a direct contest between the two former allies Shiv Sena and the BJP. During all campaign speeches, the two parties have hit out at each other on almost every issue. Sena has not just criticised the BJP but also Prime Minister Narendra Modi openly on the issue of demonetisation. BJP, on the other hand, is holding strong and is looking for every opportunity to cash present it as a thumbs up for demonetisation. The BJP is promising growth in Mumbai at a time when Sena is targetting the BJP on almost every point. It has also attacked the BJP on surgical strikes, Kashmir unrest, among other things.
Campaigning: The BJP and the Shiv Sena for the first time are featured on hoardings next to each other rather than on the same one. The Shiv Sena started a “Did You Know” campaign where they flaunted their achievements in BMC for over twenty years. On the other hand, the BJP campaigned saying that they are “Me Khara Mumbaikers” (I am the real Mumbaikar) using Shiv Sena’s 2002 tagline “Me Mumbaikar”. Among all its competitors, the BJP has topped the spending. It has flooded the media space and also has the maximum number of hoardings and posters.
Sena’s holding in the state: Shiv Sena, which has been ruling the corporation undisputedly since 1997, is facing a tough fight this election. Past results show that the Sena is not as strong as it used to be in BMC elections. To add to their worries is a strong support base that is being created for the BJP. In 2014 assembly elections, the BJP won 15 seats, and the Shiv Sena came close second with 14 wins.
Gujarati support: The BJP is banking on its support from the Gujaratis in Mumbai. Shiv Sena too is trying to impress the Gujarati voters but the issue seems to be backfiring on them since its loyal vote bank – the Marathi Manoos – is treating this shift as a betrayal by the Sena.
BJP vs Sena vs other parties: Despite the fact that BJP and Sena are not at their best, there is hardly any party which is likely to take advantage of the situation. While Congress is riddled with infighting, MNS chief Raj Thackeray started his campaigning late and is unlikely to make a huge impact. However, known for its Marathi Manoos stand since its inception, the MNS may stand to gain a bit from the Shiv Sena-BJP break up.