MNS the real winner in Mumbai civic polls

Last Updated: Sat, Feb 18, 2012 05:28 hrs

After months of mud-slinging, smear campaigns, false promises and rigourous campaigning, the results of the cash-rich BMC polls are out. As expected the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance, along with its latest ally -- the Republican Party of India, has managed to retain its majority in the house, which has a budget of over Rs 20,000 crore. With 107 seats in the kitty, the Sena alliance has well and truly extended its stay in power for another five years. The Congress-NCP alliance with 64 seats to show for its effort has been a dismal second-best. But the real big winner in the 2012 BMC polls has been Raj Thackeray's Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS). The MNS has managed to eat into a much larger portion of the pie than expected. With 28 victories, the MNS has bettered its previous tally by four times. The MNS had managed only 7 seats in the 2007 elections, and up by 21, it ended the polls on a major high.

The Sena on the other hand may bask in the glory of having retained its power in the house, but Raj Thackeray is the real winner as far as the Marathi vote goes. The Sena started out as a political outfit with its headquarters in Dadar, and its main bastion was also the Dadar-Mahim belt. However, in this year's election the Sena has lost all 7  A seats in Dadar to the MNS. A huge blow by any standards to the Sena that prides itself as the champion of the Marathi manoos.

Raj Thackeray's Saffron, Blue and white flag is flying high in front of the Sena Bhawan, the party's headquarters in Dadar. Not long ago, the Yuva Sena, led by Aaditya Thackeray had sabotaged a street play that was to be enacted outside the Sena Bhawan by Nitesh Rane's Swabhimaan Sanghathana highlighting the cases of rampant corruption in the BMC led by the Shiv Sena. The Yuva Sena workers had blocked all four roads leading to the Sena Bhawan to ensure that Sanghathana workers could not reach the Sena Bhawan to enact their skit. However, yesterday the scene outside the Sena Bhawan portrayed a completely different picture. Instead of Shiv Sena banners and flags, it was the MNS flag that was flying supreme in Dadar. A sea of MNSworkers on foot, on bikes and SUVs waved their flags through the Sena's backyard. Truly, a sign of things to come ahead.

Shiv Sena's Executive President Uddhav Thackeray was all smiles for the shutterbugs as his party put an end to all speculation about the future of the BMC. However, Uddhav will be having many sleepless nights for the next five years thinking of ways and means to unsettle his cousin Raj.

The far more aggressive and volatile orator in Raj has managed to fire up the Marathi vote-bank and attracted the masses towards the MNS. From having won just 7 seats in the 2007 elections, to having usurped 28 in 2012, Raj Thackeray and his MNS are here to stay -- whether the Sena likes it or not.

CM Chavan red-faced

Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan was handed over the reigns of the state when the Congress Party was reeling under charges of scams and corruption cases. Two former chief ministers were embroiled in cases of land grabs and housing scams. Prithviraj Chavan was handpicked by the Congress chief and sent to Maharashtra to put the house in order. Chavan had a harrowing time doing damage control for the Congress. He took it upon himself to better the party's dismal record in the BMC as well. A position it had lost for 16 years.

Chavan went on an exhaustive campaign trail in a bid to try and revive the Congress' fortunes in the BMC. He was seen at every ward, every meeting, every podium during the BMC campaign. In fact, a week before the elections Chavan said that after February 16 the Sena rule would be a thing of the past . He further added that if the Congress failed to make a mark at the BMC polls, he would be personally held responsible for the debacle.

And as is evident, with just 50 seats in the 227-strong house, the Congress has yet again failed to make any sort of mark in the civic body. The party's dismal performance has placed the CM in an embarrassing spot. But word from higher-ups in the Congress is that the CM's efforts have been recognised by the party high command, and that there is no immediate need for heads to roll over the BMC poll debacle.

Youth takes an off, elderly trudge to vote

The right to sit in the house that controls the magical city of Mumbai was up for grabs on February 16. With an annual budget of over Rs 20,000 crore, the BMC is one of the richest bodies in the country. The Shiv Sena alliance has been in power for the last 16 years in the BMC, and this time around too it has managed to extend its stay for another 5 years.

The voter turn-out was quite dismal, with just 46% turn out on D Day. What was really surprising was that the youth who got behind social activist Anna Hazare, a few months ago, was nowhere to be seen at the polling booths on Feb 16. While many took advantage of the long weekend and set off on holidays, others decided to catch up on sleep.

Amit Jhaveri (35) said that his family needed a vacation and with Shivratri falling on Monday, an extended weekend was on offer. He decided to make the most of it by flying out to God's Own Country, and in the bargain give the BMC polls the miss.

Tejas Shah (29) had an even better excuse to offer for giving the BMC polls the miss. "I woke up too late and by the time I would have got ready the polling booth would have closed. So I decided to stay at home and watch TV."

Nisha Naidu (30) was busy hosting a party for friends from out of town. "I had participated in the agitation with Anna Hazare, and I want the corrupt leaders to be put behind bars." Quizzed on why she did not exercise her franchise on Thursday, she replied, "Some guests had come over from my native place. I had to entertain them, so could not go to vote."

On the other hand, the determined few who did exercise their franchise were mostly over the age of 70 years.

75-year-old Smitha Bhagave was one of the first few to line up at the polling booth in Thane on Thursday. She said that she has never missed an election since the time she graduated. Giving her company was 103-year-old Argentia D'Souza who came on a wheelchair to cast her vote at Bandra.

Babulal Mane (80) rode on his grandson's shoulders to get to the polling booth at Holy Cross School in Parel. He went back with a wide grin and an inked index finger.Abdul Sattar Chatriwala, at the ripe age of 102, took his walking stick and his daughter for company as he exercised his franchise at Dongri on Thursday.

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