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Sena-BJP prevails - The Indian Express

Editorial ()
26 February 1997

Title : Sena-BJP prevails
Author : Editorial
Publication : The Indian Express
Date : February 26, 1997

The results of polls in nine municipalities, which account for most
of Maharashtra's industry and commerce, confirm major trends in the
Assembly and Lok Sabha elections of 1995 and 1996. This Shiv Sena
and BJP held on to their constituencies and continued their
demolition job on the Congress in others. Once again the Congress
turned in a strong performance in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad,
winning clear majorities in both and demonstrating its ability to
buck the trend when it is effectively led. But the most remarkable
outcome is not so much the continuities as the patterns of
opposition the poll has thrown up all over the State. The Shiv
Sena, tightening its grip on Mumbai with a resounding gain of 30
seats over its 1992 tally, finds its part-time partner sweeping the
poll in Maharashtra's second capital, Nagpur. In mirror-image
outcome, the SS dominates the Mumbai Municipal Corporation just as
the BJP holds Nagpur in its thrall by winning a near majority on
its own.

Need-based alliances in the two cities may actually help to mend
the growing difference between the two parties. Even as the
Congress presence in Pune is a counterweight to the saffron in
Mumbai, within Mumbai the surprise gains of the Samajwadi Party
should add to Congress worries. A not insignificant result is the
emergence of the Shiv Sena and BJP as a check on the mafia gang
which hitherto virtually controlled Ulhasnagar. In Nashik and
Solapur, the Congress as the single largest party is in a position
to provide a healthy opposition to a BJP-Shiv Sena coalition. All
in all these cross-currents across cities and within them, promise
Maharashtra's largest cities a vigorous, if noisy civic life and
the chance to find solutions to congestion, pollution and poor

The Shiv Sena belied predictions of a setback in Mumbai, which its
own defensive reaction to criticism encouraged. Its success can be
explained by the fact that despite its inability to deliver on its
slum redevelopment and other promises, it has managed to maintain
ward-level contacts in many parts of the city through its shakhas.
As its worst enemies concede, its accessibility to ordinary people
has always been a major source of strength and clearly remains so.
It campaigned far more confidently than the Congress led by Chaggan
Bhujbal and Murli Deora, poor crowd-pullers compared with the
fire-breathing Bal Thackeray who spoke, moreover, with all the
authority of the government in the State. The predicament of the
Congress is that in Mumbai, at least, it still carries the odour of
corruption and Sitaram Kesri and other national leaders are no more
likely to have won hearts. The gains in Mumbai especially will be
a morale-booster for the SS-BJP combine. No doubt it will be
encouraged to carry out plans to alter the constitution of the
Municipal Corporation. But before it changes the structure of a
100-year-old body, one of the more effective ones in the country,
it should invite wide public debate on whether a mayor-in-council
system of governance is, in fact, what the city needs.

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