Sena holds onto Mumbai; BJP gains, Cong, NCP bite the dust
Making giant strides in the Shiv Sena citadel of Mumbai, BJP on Thursday won 82 seats in the fiercely fought BMC polls, just two seats behind the estranged saffron ally, but both were well adrift of the magic figure of 114 needed to control the civic body.
The hung verdict will reset the political calculations as no party is in the position to rule the country's richest civic body on its own and alliance seems inevitable.
However, it is not yet clear whether the saffron allies, who share power both in Maharashtra and at the Centre, will get back together or new combinations will emerge. In the counting of votes held on Thursday, the Congress was relegated to the third position with 31 seats, whereas the NCP and the Raj Thackeray's MNS were reduced to 9 and 7 seats, respectively.
AIMIM, which had made its maiden entry into the Maharashtra Assembly with two seats in the last polls, won three seats on debut in the BMC elections, Samajwadi Party six, Akhil Bhartiya Sena one and Independents four.
The results came as a shot in the arm for Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who spearheaded the BJP's campaign with focus on transparency. The BJP also came out with flying colours in other municipal corporations and local bodies. Ten municipal corporations, 25 Zilla Parishads and 283 Panchayat Samitis went to polls on February 16 and 21.
The BJP's victory came as a major morale-booster for the party which is in the midst of gruelling assembly polls in five states, including key battleground state of Uttar Pradesh, where it is pitted against strong opponents.
The calumny-filled campaign for control of BMC had even cast a shadow on the stability of the state government, with the Sena threatening to walk out and putting the government on notice.
In the outgoing civic body, Sena had 89 seats, BJP 32, Congress 51, NCP 14, SP 8, MNS 28, PWP 1, and Independents 4.
The Sena has controlled the BMC for the last two decades with the BJP remaining a junior partner. Sena's gamble to go alone in its bastion appeared to have failed to pay off.
Thanking the voters, an elated Fadnavis said, "Our victory is the result of people's acceptance of our agenda of transparency," and indicated that his party's core committee would explore the options before it.
Meanwhile, when asked about the future course of action, Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray said, "What is the hurry? Wait for some time. We have not yet decided if an alliance has to be made or not. We will do so soon."
Earlier, on a day of fluctuating fortunes, the initial trends put the Sena ahead in close to 100 seats, prompting the analysts to predict that it would a smooth road to power for the Uddhav Thackeray's party with the support of a few independents or smaller entities.
As the counting progressed, the BJP surged ahead to notch up its highest-ever tally in the municipal body, whose annual budget surpasses even those of some smaller states. Last year's budget of BMC stood at Rs 37,052 crore.