The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) continued its political dominance in Maharashtra with resounding electoral victories in key municipalities and zilla parishads across the State. It won eight of the 10 municipal elections that were held on February 21. The Shiv Sena, its erstwhile ally, won in Mumbai and Thane.
In the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), it was a close call, with the Sena winning 84 out of the 227 seats and the BJP 82. In Thane, the Sena won 67 of the 131 seats, while the BJP won only 23, fewer than the Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), which bagged 34 seats.
In eight other municipal zones, the BJP swept the elections, giving Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis a major image boost as well as an upper hand against the Sena, a party that is a part of the government. For the municipal elections, the Sena had broken the alliance and dared the BJP to go it alone.
In Pune, the BJP won 98 of the 162 seats, with the NCP coming a distant second with 40 seats and the Sena bagging a mere 10. In Nagpur, Mr. Fadnavis’ home town, the BJP won 108 of the 151 seats, leaving the Congress way behind with 29 seats. In Nashik, where Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) had won in the 2012 elections, the BJP won 67 of the 122 seats. The MNS was decimated, with just five seats.
“This victory has made us more powerful in Maharashtra,” Mr. Fadnavis said at a press conference. “Our politics consists of trust and transparency. This result is a clear indication that Mumbaikars and the people from the rest of the State have accepted our way of functioning. No other party in the last 25 years has delivered such results.”
He added: “The victories in the BMC and other municipal corporations have made the BJP more humble. Instead of merely talking about good governance, the party will now work towards delivering the promises it had made in the campaign. The people have accepted Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s demonetisation wholeheartedly. Along with that, the transparency agenda has received tremendous support from the people.”
“I thank my Marathi brothers and sisters for their overwhelming trust in me,” Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray said in a statement released at a press conference at Sena Bhavan, the party headquarters. He said the party had expected a few more seats, but lost in a close contest. “Not only will the next Mayor of Mumbai be from the Shiv Sena, but also the next Chief Minister.”
Both the Sena and the BJP have staked claim to the post of Mumbai Mayor, but have avoided the vitriolic language that peppered the campaign. BJP city unit chief Ashish Shelar claimed the support of four Independents and said the next Mayor will be from Mumbai.
The Congress lost several of its seats in Mumbai, winning only 31. The party’s Mumbai chief Sanjay Nirupam offered his resignation, accepting responsibility for the defeat, which he blamed on infighting. The MNS is the biggest loser, winning only seven seats as against 28 in 2012. For the fifth consecutive time in Mumbai, though, the Sena has become the single largest party. It not only increased its 2012 tally of 75, but Mr. Thackeray’s gamble to go it alone by snapping its alliance with the BJP also proved to be a major factor in consolidating the party’s traditional Marathi vote base.