There is no municipal corporation bigger by budget than Mumbai’s, with Rs37,000 cr per annum, and rising. Yet it suffers from a grave malady – misadministration because hardly, if ever, half of the money set aside for development is expended. That plus corruption, so endemic to governance institutions in India, is reflected in every aspect of civic issues. Roads are an example.
Shiv Sena and BJP competed for its control. In the recent elections to the civic body, the Shiv Sena bested the Bharatiya Janata Party by winning two seats more than its rival could – 84 to 82. Both improved on their tally and now the fierce intent to have its own mayor has rightly taken hold of the Sena because it is the largest party now in a house of 227. But that is not enough to get its own mayor or take undisputed control.
BJP’s promise of transparency in civic management secured it as much support from voters as did some respect for BJP under Narendra Modi and demonetisation did not matter. After all, the Mumbai High Court had to time and gain intervene on almost all aspects to straighten the crooked ways of the city government which is a crying shame. Forget the BJP view of the Sena, the High Court orders are a barometer of the municipality’s functioning.
There is a lurking hope in the BJP that it would somehow manage to have its mayor by some deals, and if the push came to a show, align with its friend turned foe. This perhaps could be its biggest mistake though there is a risk that BJP could be treated by the Sena in the very disdain manifest in their relationship in the state government. The irony is that after going daggers at each other in the 2014 Assembly elections, they teamed up to form a government.
In the civic polls, they did not stay partners and launched vitriolic campaigns against each other. It forced a Sena consolidation and enabled BJP’s growth but left both hanging in midair in terms of a majority. It is here that the BJP has to show respect to the platform it contested on, transparency, and not seek to just seek a mayorship. Its strength of 82 enables it to make a virtue out of necessity and sit in the opposition and demand that the Sena run the city better.
If that were done, BJP would earn more respect than it would if it went the usual way of political parties and made deals even with the Shiv Sena, replicating the Sena conduct in 2014. It had then chosen to sit in the opposition refusing to be a part of the government but in a sudden about-turn drawn by pelf of offices, chose to join the government but bickers like spouses in a bad marriage.
BJP’s watchdog status in the municipal corporation emerged only after the 2014 break up for the Assembly elections, and prior to that, was a partner in crime as it were for two decades in the civic body. The BJP has, however, avoiding entering a mea culpa and instead held up Sena as being a party of extortionists, even a mafia. It is hard to believe that any political party in civic administrations do not extort, but that does not imply that citizens have to accept bribery as a way of life, a given norm.
Sena has been chastised by the city by denying it full control, and allowed the BJP a near equal status. That by no means implies that given a fractured mandate, the two rivals who were at each other’s throat for the past two years should make up and carve out rights in the city administration. It is entitled, as per the numbers, to sit in the opposition and bridle a dispensation which tends towards mischief.
Not seeking to have a mayor from its party is more the honest thing to do than make peace with a rival and ensure that the civic body is virtually devoid of opposition. Sena plus BJP would be a gigantic 166 corporators in a house of 227, resulting in a small or nominal opposition. BJP and Sena cannot together provide transparent administration while BJP in opposition can try and ensure that, living up to its manifesto. That would be honourable. But who seeks honour in politics?