BJP is gaining ground in Maharashtra and Shiv Sena doesn't like it one bit
The BJP is fast gaining grounds and growing into a threat to Shiv Sena at the grassroots levels in Maharashtra. The BJP's Mira-Bhayandar Municipal Corporation election victory has not gone down well with the Shiv Sena but this is just the tip of the ice berg. The rising popularity of the BJP is denting Shiv Sena's precious foothold, the municipal corporations.
The BJP won 61 of the 95 seats while the Shiv Sena managed only 22. Incidentally, before BJP's thumping victory, a BJP-Sena combine ruled the civic body. Now, the BJP does not need the Shiv Sena anymore. Out of the nine civic corporations in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region alone, Shiv Sena has control over two, Sena-BJP combine rules one civic body while Congress and NCP rule one civic body each. The BJP has an upper hand in two corporations while it is the undisputed king in two more. Moreover, out of the 18 corporations in Maharashtra, the BJP now controls 12 either singularly or in alliance with smaller regional or local parties.
From civic polls to assembly elections: The fight continues
Since 2014, after Devendra Fadnavis was placed at the helm of affairs in Maharashtra, the BJP has been successful in winning urban and semi-urban pockets. The party won 168 out of 260 civic council seats in the December 2016 elections across the state. BJP won 9 out of 11 municipalities in the March 2017.
At the state level, Shiv Sena despite being a coalition partner minces no words in lashing out at the BJP and its policies. Through its mouthpiece Saamna, the Shiv Sena is critical of its alliance partner at the state as well as the national level. While BJP intends to come back to power as the single largest party in the next assembly elections, the Shiv Sena has already claimed that it will contest elections alone. But the successive wins for the BJP in district and civic level elections has come as a matter of concern to the Shiv Sena.
From being an alliance partner in the civic body, the BJP will now go on to be the single largest party in Mira-Bhayander municipal corporation. Unable to digest the loss, Shiv Sena has decided to approach the election commission.
"The BJP won the Mira-Bhayandar election because of money and muni. A Jain monk Naypadmasagarji Maharaj behaved like Zakir Naik and communalised the election," said Shiv Sena MP, Sanjay Raut. Shiv Sena claims that a video of the seer asking people of the community to vote for the BJP went viral as the election approached.
The Shiv Sena has attacked the BJP for fighting elections on religious lines using the Jain monk as their tool. The Shiv Sena was expecting to win 45 seats in the election. The results came as a reality check for the party that has enjoyed the status of being the single most popular local party. The Maratha card has been Shiv Sena's biggest strength, the BJP is now eating into the same.
Devendra Fadnavis' balancing act
Devendra Fadnavis' handling of the demands placed by community leaders during the massive Maratha Morcha, loan waiver scheme, push for Marathi language and students of the community have been successful in appealing to the community. Devendra Fadnavis' leadership of the BJP in Maharashtra has been largely successful, one of the key reasons why the party would not consider moving him away from the state.
While the BJP has managed to push Congress and the NCP to an almost unimportant entity at every level, the Shiv Sena seems to have a lot to worry about. Is it only a matter of time before the alliance partners turn from friends with benefits to arch rivals in Maharashtra state politics?