The BJP’s resounding victory in the civic polls in Maharashtra has further strengthened Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who led his party’s campaign from the front after deciding to go alone without tying up with the Shiv Sena, according to political observers. The results, which saw the BJP making massive gains in city corporations and doubling its tally in BMC, also exposed the organisational failures of the Congress-NCP, which were routed even in their strongholds across the state.
Fadnavis, 46, who heads the first BJP-led government in the politically crucial state, single-handedly led the party’s campaign criss-crossing the length and breadth of Maharashtra, aggressively projecting “transparency and development” as the central slogan.
Significantly, the BJP’s urban sweep came close on the heels of its sterling performance in municipal council elections in November-January, rubbishing the predictions that the party would do badly in the backdrop of the note ban.
In contrast to the well-crafted BJP campaign, the Congress leaders largely confined themselves to their respective districts during the run-up, failing to put up a spirited fight by overcoming organisational weaknesses and internal bickering, poll-watchers said. The immediate justification of the party for its poor performance, however, was lack of adequate funds. But some Congress leaders admitted that the party failed to match the high-octane campaign mounted by the saffron parties by bringing to the fore the real civic issues.
“The Sena and BJP adopted the Kalyan-Dombivali municipal Corporation (KDMC) formula where the two parties fought a bitter campaign against each other despite being in power together in the state and eventually sealed a post poll alliance,” they said, requesting anonymity.
The BJP emerged as the largest party in eight of the 10 municipal corporations while finishing a close second to bellicose ally Shiv Sena in Mumbai. Rattling the Sena citadel, BJP won 82 seats in BMC, just two less than the estranged saffron ally, but both ended up well short of the magic figure of 114 needed to control the civic body.
Political observers said non-Maharashtrians, who formed the core base of the Congress in Mumbai for long, have switched sides to the BJP since 2014. “Even Muslims preferred to vote for Shiv Sena instead of the Congress due to the factional feud and infighting. The Congress did not present a picture of a fighting unit,” said an observer.