Mahesh Vijapurkar

Uddhav Thackeray, the Shiv Sena boss would now be feeling cheated out of a good high visibility fight humbling the Bharatiya Janata Party in the post for the mayoral post in the Mumbai civic body, the richest and therefore prized for the benefits that accrue from there. The narrow margin separating the two – just two votes – would have been good enough in the past to contest, at least, the party with lesser votes putting up candidates nominally.

To Uddhav, that would have been a natural denouement after the vitriolic campaign for the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai. However, the refusal of other parties to team up with either side in the fray changed the script and DevendraFadnavis decided to write the nuances to the storyline. The BJP would stay out of the contest for all posts in the civic body, thus apparently giving a free run to the Sena. But he added several subtexts to it following which the Sena had to rebottle its own vitriol.

As the second largest party, BJP is entitled to lead the Opposition in the municipality but has decided not to formally take that status. However, by announcing it would seek and ensure transparency ii Sena's conduct of affairs - its election plank - BJP has let it be known that it would be a kind of opposition, not an ally. That's why it does not want any post, in standing committees, etc. The Sena’s nuisance in the government has been substantially reduced because it acted like an opposition though a partner there.

There is a substantive difference between the Sena's conduct hitherto in Fadnavis-led government and the role it seeks for itself in the civic body. Sena is a quarrelsome partner in Maharashtra government, hedging its bets. In the civic body, BJP is taking a blurred position, by which it wants to keep the Sena happy to avoid risk to the state government.

In substance, Fadnavis, the architect of the BJP’s remarkable gains across civic and panchayat raj bodies – that is urban and rural – has converted a visible inability to wrest control of Mumbai Municipal Corporation into a kind of victory. In return for the free run to win the posts there, the subdued Sena has assured that there would be no threat to the state government led by the BJP. However, it is likely that the Sena would growl a bit now and then to keep up the fiction of its self-esteem.

For instance, it wants the findings of a three-person committee of retired officials just now appointed to ensure transparency in civic administration to be applied to all self-government bodies. The advocate of transparency, who was recently flummoxed when it was demanded that the standard be applied even to the cabinet meetings, by inviting the Leader of Opposition and media to sit through its meetings, will not only agree but be expected to apply the standards elsewhere too.

Such transparency may be required, of course, but they are not likely to come by or enforced easily because, politicians are not in the business of governance but of extracting personal gains from the elected posts they reach. The BJP would have to demand that its own cadre – 82 of them in the Corporation – show the unlikely levels of morality of just not being corrupt but ensure that corruption was halted under its watchful eye. It may make its claims but the quality of administration is easily sensed by the citizens.

Citizens can see through the claims and match them with the felt realities because they walk on the broken and encroached sidewalks which ought not to be that, wait for water which they do not get in time or enough but ought to be, have the garbage cleared but is not, drive on roads that are potholes-free but actually are repaired so often that contractors make money along with you know who. Or see an illegal building coming up with someone’s connivance. Thus, Fadnavis has set up a challenge for himself too.