The Shiv Sena leads in 92 seats in Mumbai with the party fighting off a challenge from estranged ally Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to control the country’s largest and richest civic body. At 2 pm, BJP was leads in 76 seats.
The largely-diminished Congress was leading in 28 seats, while the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) lead in 9, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) in 8 and the independent others in 13.
Shiv Sena candidates like former Mayor Shraddha Jadhav, Vishakha Raut, Shehal Ambekar, Kishori Pednekar, Milind Vaidya and Priti Patankar emerged victorious.
Hardline All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), led by the Owaisi brothers from Hyderabad, seemed to have struck a chord with Muslim voters but by Thursday noon, with the defeat of Waqarunnissa Ansari, who hopped to the party from Congress in the last minute, seemed to be upsetting party leaders and workers. The party was leading in just one of the 59 seats that party nominees were in the fray.
The Shiv Sena, which has been controlling the BMC since 1997 in an alliance with the BJP, banked on its massive grassroots reach and support among the working class Maharashtrians, to overcome rising anti-incumbency and voter fatigue. Shiv Sena nominees were gaining in Maharashtrian strongholds of Lalbag, Parel, Dadar, Mahim, Parel, Dharavi, Kalanagar and Worli.
While holding on its Marathi vote base due to its decision to snap ties with the BJP, which in turn caused polarisation of its core votes, Shiv Sena leaders claimed that they reached out to an auxiliary constituency of non-Maharashtrians who were natural BJP voters but miffed at the Narendra Modi-led government for its demonetisation decision. These voters shifted loyalties to the Shiv Sena which they consider a natural ally due to the common plank of Hindutva.
However, while the BJP, for whom Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had single-handedly led the charge in Mumbai, was not in striking distance of power, the party emerged as number two in the city.
Shiv Sena sources claimed that their decision to break ties with the BJP had benefited both the parties, which occupied the political space while obliterating other formations like the Congress, NCP and even the rival Raj Thackeray-led MNS.
The Sena had also launched a series of advertisements titled ‘Did You Know’, highlighting the achievements of the civic body, to tap the aspiration votes of the youth and of non-Maharashtrians.
Incidentally, the Shiv Sena had controlled the BMC between 1985 and 1992 but after a pre-poll tie-up with the BJP — the two parties had sewed up an alliance in 1989 — fell apart in the BMC, the party lost power to the then-undivided Congress in 1992. The saffron alliance surged to power in the civic body in 1997.
Box- Five reasons why the Shiv Sena is leading
Decision to snap ties with BJP diverted attention away from voters fatigue, anti incumbency, the two parties occupied the entire political space
Rallied Marathi voters and recovered lost ground from the rival MNS
Strong network of shakhas and working class support
Created auxillary constituency among non Marathis by nominating Gujaratis, Jains and even Mulsims