The memories of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit on 19 January this year is still fresh in the minds of Mumbaikars. Now on 10 February, he is going to make his second visit to Mumbai, in less than a month's span.
On his 19 January visit, PM Modi inaugurated projects worth Rs 38,800 crore, most of them belonging to Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the two metro lines. His upcoming visit on 10 February, is for inaugurating an institution belonging to the Bohri Muslims.
It is being anticipated that PM will be flagging off two Vande Bharat trains — one for Solapur and the other for Shirdi (Sai Baba Temple is located in Shirdi). There is a buzz about him inaugurating the Dharavi Redevelopment Project, though there isn't any confirmation about it.
While for a common Mumbaikar, these are mere visits by the Prime Minister meant for inaugurating projects, for those politically aware, it is a clear hint that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is gearing up for the upcoming BMC elections.
Even his previous visit was more concentrated on projects related to BMC and more importantly, Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis put a good show in front of Modi.
Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) grounds at Bandra Kurla Complex were filled to the brim, and it was a well organised rally with several projects, especially the two metro lines.
According to reports, the new metro lines have eased the traffic on the roads and also lowered the weekly numbers of commuters, dependent on the suburban local trains on western lines by a few lakhs. The metros even crossed the one million mark of passengers using the services and have managed to gain praise for the government.
While the opposition was reeling under the impact of these projects, now with Modi announcing his second visit within a month, it has made political circles abuzz with rumours that the BMC elections may take place anytime soon. Modi had mentioned BMC in his speech during the last visit.
Not only Modi, but Shinde, also had spoken about triple engine sarkar, taking ahead the famous double engine sarkar which includes the Central and State government. In Shinde's speech, the third engine meant the BMC.
BMC is the richest municipal corporation in the country, the civic body's budget is bigger than many states in the country.
The BJP has shared power alongside the Shiv Sena on several occasions in the BMC, but has never gained undisputed hold of the municipal corporation. Till 2017 the BJP was limited to hardly 30 seats, as it played a second fiddle to the Shiv Sena.
However, in 2017 the BJP for the first time contested the BMC polls on its own and was hardly one or two seats behind the Shiv Sena. This gave the much needed ammunition to the BJP that it can win the BMC elections.
Also with the current situation of the Shiv Sena under Uddhav Thackeray which is a split house, the BJP has an upper hand and any political party will not let go of this opportunity.
The BJP has announced that they will be contesting the elections along with the Shiv Sena led by Eknath Shinde. While Shinde lacks organisation in Mumbai, he in the last few days, has made attempts to set up parallel shakhas in majority of the areas of Mumbai.
However, the BJP is in a strong position already, with the highest number of MLAs and almost five MPs in the city. With the BJP-Shinde camp it won't be much of a difficulty to mobilise the workers.
The BJP is doing all that it should do to snatch the reins of BMC from Uddhav Thackeray, from holding meetings in every ward to getting the Prime Minister as often they can and his upcoming visit to Mumbai is seen as a curtain raiser for the BMC elections.
It has been a year since the BMC has no elected body, and the state government can anytime announce the elections provided certain legalities involved are sorted out.
Why does the BJP think it is a good time to announce elections? This question can find its answer in the current state of opposition; the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) is not strong and is also a divided house. The first rift that the MVA saw was Eknath Shinde breaking away with 40 MLAs and more than a dozen MPs from the Shiv Sena led by Uddhav Thackeray.
Uddhav Thackeray, then formed an alliance with Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) led by Prakash Ambedkar. This new alliance hasn't gone well with the NCP, which has been attacking the VBA since its alliance with Uddhav Thackeray.
There are multiple tweets by many from NCP which has given away their displeasure with the new alliance.
Uddhav is trying the old formula of Jai Bhim-Jai Meem in Mumbai, which will rather end up denting the votes of NCP and the Congress and this is the reason why NCP is against the new alliance forged by Uddhav.
The top leaders of Congress in Mumbai on several occasions have made it clear that they would like to go solo in the BMC elections, though no decision is final yet.
The BJP is set to gain, and Narendra Modi's popularity will help the party in the elections, with lakhs attending his last rally in Mumbai. And with metro making a positive noise, the BJP is confident that it will be able to ride on the Modi wave.
The opposition not only lacks unity, but also a face that can match that of Modi's charisma.This is why Modi's second visit in a month's span has worried many from the opposition benches, since it can end up dimming their chances in the Municipal polls.
Varun Singh, is a Mumbai-based journalist and tracks politics and other important news from the western region of the country. Varun has spent close to 18 years in journalism.
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