A monsoon damper: Why delayed BMC polls could be bad news for Sena

For one, the timing of the elections could go against the Sena that heads the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government in the state. The elections, usually held in April-May, were delayed over the OBC reservation issue and are now scheduled to take place after the monsoons, in September-October. With widespread incidents of flooding and water-logging, the BMC has been caught napping almost every year and this year isn’t likely to be any different.

Sena minister Aaditya Thackeray admitted as much when, after a meeting on the BMC’s monsoon preparation, he said, “If there is 200 mm rain in a single day, Mumbai is bound to face flash floods. You cannot stop nature’s fury.”

Besides the impact that another round of floods may have on the Sena’s electoral prospects, the party will have to answer several uncomfortable questions in the coming months – whether it is the failure to restore OBC reservation as alleged by the Opposition or the poor condition of roads.

With the five-year term of the BMC ending on March 7, the government had appointed the municipal commissioner as its administrator for a period of six months.

In 2017, though the Sena and BJP were coalition partners in the Maharashtra government, the two parties fought the BMC elections separately. The BJP recorded a remarkable rise that election, winning 82 seats to the Sena’s 84, up from 31 in the previous election. Yet, the party handed the reins of the BMC to the Sena. The Congress won 29 seats, NCP 8, SP 6, MNS 7, MIM 1 and others one.

This election, however, the BJP has turned into an aggressive opposition, with a single-minded agenda to dislodge the Sena in the BMC.

BJP MLA Ashish Shelar said, “While the monsoon is expected any time now, the BMC has only got 35 per cent of the drains desilted. Even with moderate rainfall Mumbai will face water logging. Their priority is only power and money. Whether it is the coastal road project or the redevelopment of slums, there is violation of norms everywhere.”

Added to this mix is the Raj Thackeray-headed Maharashtra Navnirman Sena.

The MNS, which was on the backfoot in the last elections, has bounced back to the centre stage with its Hindutva agenda. The party won only seven seats in the last BMC polls. Six of the MNS corporators joined the Sena after the polls.

MNS sources said the party is eyeing 35 to 40 seats in the Marathi-dominated areas. While that’s a daunting task, any MNS revival is likely to be at the cost of the Sena.

Besides its known rivals, the Sena also has to negotiate with the Congress and the NCP, its partners in the ruling alliance but are yet to announce a tie-up in the BMC polls.

A Congress cabinet minister said, “An alliance with the Sena for the BMC polls will be considered provided we get adequate seats. Of 227 seats, Congress will seek at least 90-100 seats. Anything less than this will be unacceptable.”

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Sources said the Mumbai Congress led by Bhai Jagtap cannot engage in a friendly match with the Sena if he hopes to revive the party in the city.

The Sena is also bracing for a fight. “The BMC polls will be led by Aditya Thackeray. The Sena will contest each and every seat to maximise its electoral dividends. The Sena will get into an alliance only if the Congress and NCP give us an upper hand,” said a Sena leader.

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