The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has started preparing for the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) elections due in February 2022. The elections are seen in the state of Maharashtra as “mini-Assembly” elections. The party has started focusing on forming and activating units in all the wards and its frontal organizations to reach different segments of population including the North Indian voters who constitute roughly 10-15% of the total voters in the BMC polls. In many municipal wards, the population of North Indian voters ranges between 30-70%. The induction of former minister and Congress’s North Indian face Kripashankar Singh is also seen by the political observers as BJ’sP outreach to the community which till 2014 was considered a Congress vote bank.
The BMC is the largest corporation in the country with an annual budget of over Rs 30,000 crore and has been single-handedly run by the Shiv Sena for over three decades since 1989. In the 2017 BMC polls, Shiv Sena and the BJP, who were alliance partners in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), had contested against each other with Shiv Sena winning 84 seats and the BJP winning 82 seats. The Shiv Sena formed government with the help of independents. Talking to The Daily Guardian, Mumbai-based political analyst Jayant Thakur said, “All the parties have started preparing for the BMC polls. The saffron party had started mobilizing resources and energizing cadres. Due to Covid, preparations were halted, but now it is on in full swing. Out of the state’s 130 million population, roughly 22 million is covered in BMC; therefore, the BJP, which is fighting the elections alone and has developed after 2019 as a pole in state politics, wants to win the BMC anyhow. But for the Shiv Sena which is in government, these polls are equally important in view of the fact that the party’s main support base is in Mumbai and Thane region.”
To counter the ruling Shiv Sena, the saffron party had elevated its senior leader Narayan Rane and had directed him to take on the Shiv Sena through his Jan Ashirwad Yatra in the run-up to the crucial municipal election. In recent times, Maharashtra is not a “satisfactory state” for the saffron party as, despite winning 105 seats on its own and having support of 120 MLAs, the party was not able to form a government in the state and in the recent bypoll in Deglur-Biloli Assembly seat, the BJP’s candidate Subhash Sabne lost by a margin of 41,000 votes to Congress candidate Jitesh Antapurkar. The byelection was a prestige battle for the party and it had mobilized its cadres from across the state in the Deglur-Biloli Assembly segment.
One senior BJP leader said, “The BMC polls are a prestige battle for us; the way the Shiv Sena cheated us after the outcome of 2019 Assembly elections, the BMC polls is giving us an opportunity to take our revenge from them. If we are able to defeat them in the polls, then the Shiv Sena’s story in Maharastra will be over as a majority of its Assembly seats are from Mumbai and adjoining regions, hence we are taking the polls very seriously.”