Shiv Sena’s Hemant Doke contested the recent Assembly elections from Wadala, a constituency with a sizeable Marathi-speaking voters.
However, Doke, a three-time corporator, stood third, trailing the BJP candidate, who finished second, by 5,650 votes. In the tussle among the two saffron parties, the seat went to the sitting Congress MLA Kalidas Kolambkar, who won by a slim margin of 800 votes.
Alka Doke, Hemant’s wife and sitting Shiv Sena corporator from Wadala herself, is concerned about meeting the same fate as her husband’s if the current situation dents the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance in the corporation too.
With the 25-year-old alliance having splintered at the Assembly level and the two parties yet to mend their ties to form the state government, several Shiv Sena corporators like Doke are in a “wait-and-watch” mode, wary of the disadvantages they will face in case of a similar situation at the civic level.
“This topic of what is likely to happen in the corporation has not come up for discussion yet. We are for the alliance. But if the BJP decides to individually contest election at the civic level too, then it will be a problem for us. My husband lost because there was no alliance in place and the votes were split between the BJP and Shiv Sena,” says Alka Doke.
The Shiv Sena-BJP alliance has ruled the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), India’s richest municipal corporation, for nearly 20 years, and the control of the civic body is the Shiv Sena’s lifeblood in Mumbai.
After the 2012 civic polls, the Shiv Sena has 75 corporators, and is dependant on the support of the BJP with 31 members and 15 corporators from smaller parties and Independents to enjoy a majority in the 227-member house.
The next election is scheduled in 2017. Corporators expect the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), whose statewide presence is near nil, to support the Shiv Sena with its 27 seats in case the BJP decides to walk out.
Anil Singh, a Shiv Sena corporator from south Mumbai’s Priyadarshni Park area, says that in all likelihood, the corporation won’t be dissolved, but if the BJP withdrew support, it could harm his party in other ways.
“The chairmanships of the various committees will be up for change in April. In case the BJP pulls out and the alliances change, the decision-making in such matters could be a problem for us. Currently, the Shiv Sena enjoys an edge in such decisions. Fortunately, the mayor has been recently elected and will continue for two-and-a-half years,” Singh said.
Currently, the Shiv Sena and the BJP are, by and large, known to be on the same side in decision-making in the BMC, barring occasional spars such as differences on the implementation of the local body tax.
However, in the first standing committee meeting post-state elections on Monday, BJP group leader Manoj Kotak had strongly objected to a proposal being supported by Shiv Sena corporators about granting a rebate on pending water bills, saying the scheme should not be extended to government agencies. Kotak later came around and the proposal was passed.
A Shiv Sena corporator from Parel who did not wish to be named said, “It is because we are together that the corporation is running. Further, if we have to contest elections separately in 2017, we have to really ramp up our presence in the next two years and stress more on developmental works. We will have to go beyond connecting with the Marathi voters. For now, we are just waiting to see what happens at the state government level.”