25 Jan 2023  |   04:59am IST

Battle of prestige to gain control over BMC

The neighbouring State of Maharashtra witnessed a shift in power after Shiv Sena was split.

Multiple public projects built at the cost of crores were inaugurated by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and now the discussion around gaining control over the city of Mumbai’s has begun. 

Till date, Shiv Sena has single-handedly ruled over Mumbai’s civic body Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation and the simple equation is that whoever is in charge of the country’s economic capital, rules the State. There have been many parties which have ruled the State of Maharashtra, but no one could shake Shiv Sena’s stronghold on BMC. 

The role of Sena being the elder brother and BJP the younger one remained constant for decades until their bitter parting which took place about three years ago. Now, Sena is not with the BJP and it is natural for the saffron party to feel the need of gaining power over the country’s richest municipal corporation. It is noticeable how the BJP has made the municipal corporation’s election an issue of prestige with the PM focusing on it. The NDA front of BJP and Sena secured the majority, but the political crisis that followed led Sena to form ties with NCP and INC. 

Sena, as per the unwritten contract, alleged that the BJP leaders in the presence of Central Home Minister Amit Shah had promised them the post of Chief Minister for the first 2.5 years. BJP denying this promise led to Sena cutting ties with its oldest ally. The events that unfolded in the following years are more entertaining than the soap operas. 

BJP extended support to the splinter group of Shiv Sena led by its rebel leader Eknath Shinde, plunging the ruling alliance of MVA into a major political crisis once again. The BJP leaders and party workers were sure of Devendra Fadnavis becoming the Chief Minister following the split within Sena, but instead, he had to settle for the post of Deputy Chief Minister. 

No one would have guessed that the BJP was forming the stage for the BMC polls that time. It is no secret that the saffron party wants Sena to lose power and the fight within Sena would naturally favour the BJP. The party has planned its strategy for the BMC polls by handing the steering wheel of the State to Shinde. The PM’s Mumbai visit was nothing but a part of this strategy. The equation is simple - which is to grab BMC from Sena and make them powerless. Although both the parties are strong proponents of Hindutva ideology there are fights between them over whose Hindutva is more real. 

Now, the issue of Hindutva is kept aside as the focus has been shifted towards BMC. The municipal corporation’s budget is roughly Rs 45,000 crore, which is way more than some of the States in the country. The revenue mostly comes from the corporate world and Bollywood, home to the Hindi cinema industry. Mumbai is referred to as the goose that lays golden eggs as it is the country’s highest tax paying metropolitan city. BMC which has been under the rule of Shiv Sena for the last 25 years has Rs 92,000 crore in its fixed deposit. 

This easily gives the idea of how wealthy the municipal corporation is. The city of Mumbai is extremely crucial for the political existence of Shiv Sena. The party has not let the stronghold on the city fall loose even a bit since it got elected to power here and it is understandable, since the financial logistics needed to strengthen Sena came from BMC. What would happen if the Sena was to let go of BMC? The BJP has already started to put in efforts to gain control over the corporation and were very close to winning during the last polls. Sena was able to narrowly escape the loss and maintained its rule over the municipal corporation. Eventually, both made peace until the recent intra-party struggle that struck Sena. Amit Shah’s visit to Mumbai should be seen as preparatory for the upcoming BMC polls. He made his presence felt in Lalbaugcha Raja and many other temple councils devoted to the deity of Ganesha, a much revered God in Maharashtra. Not only did he take meetings with the BJP officials, but also addressed the crowd which sparked the discussions over BJP’s intentions of contesting BMC polls where the party has aimed to win 150 seats. The party has started implementing its strategy to take Raj Thackeray along with them and the BJP leaders have sprinkled the hints regarding the same. Some of the incidents in recent months only back up this prediction. Trying to make peace between Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Ganesh Naik was also part of the preparation for elections and it has been very much evident. The BJP is desperately trying to gain control over BMC and PM Modi entered the field in the first half of the game. It would be exciting to see if BJP’s winning consistency would be disrupted at least by Shiv Sena in Mumbai.