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BJP sweeps Mira-Bhayander municipal polls, continuing Maharashtra victory run

LiveMint logoLiveMint 21-08-2017 Abhiram Ghadyalpatil

Mumbai: Continuing its victory run in Maharashtra, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Monday swept the polls to the Mira-Bhayander Municipal Corporation in the Mumbai metropolitan region. Of the 95 seats, the BJP won 61, nearly doubling its 2012 tally of 31.

The Shiv Sena came second with 22 seats and the Congress won 10. The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) could not open its account.

Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray campaigned heavily in the elections, virtually carrying on with the BJP-Sena acrimony seen in the Mumbai civic elections earlier this year. To be sure, the Sena gained 7 seats over its 2012 tally of 15, but it failed to score over the BJP in a straight fight yet again. The results marked a sharp anti-climax in the NCP and the Congress fortunes—the NCP had won 26 seats in 2012 and the Congress 18.

The Mira-Bhayander township on the western tip of Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) has a large North Indian, Gujarati and Jain population that has shuffled between the Congress-NCP and the BJP over the years. The Marathi population has largely stayed with the Shiv Sena.

The victory is significant for the ruling BJP in Maharashtra since it decided to contest the civic polls on its own in keeping with its strategy for municipal and zilla parishad (district councils) elections held earlier this year. It is also a pointer to the BJP’s consolidation in the MMR in three years since the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance won all five seats from Greater Mumbai, which is part of the MMR, with the BJP getting three. The BJP went alone in the October 2014 assembly polls in the state and won 15 of the 36 assembly seats in Greater Mumbai. The Sena won 14 and Congress 5.

This year in February, the BJP jumped from 31 seats in 2012 to 82 in the elections to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the Sena won 84. In the municipal elections in nine other cities in February 2017 also, the BJP was the single largest party in Pune, Nashik, Nagpur, Pimpri-Chinchwad, Amravati, Akola, Solapur and Ulhasnagar. This year in May, the BJP also swept elections to the Panvel Municipal Corporation (also in MMR) and the Shiv Sena failed to open its account.

For chief minister Fadnavis, who holds the urban development portfolio, the victory in Mira-Bhayander comes as yet another endorsement of his development agenda which was the central theme of the BJP’s campaign in this township. Fadnavis tweeted that the victory was “because of the wave of vishwas and vikaas (faith and development) created by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the efforts of team BJP”.

BJP’s Mumbai unit chief Ashish Shelar was more direct in his attack on the Shiv Sena, saying that poll after poll in the state are a demonstration of the BJP’s rise and they showed the real power of “those who have illusions about their strength”.

Shiv Sena leader and Maharashtra transport minister Diwakar Raote hit back saying Shiv Sena had resolved to fight each election in the state on its own. “Like the Marathas rose after the Panipat loss, Shiv Sena will also rise once again,” he said.

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