Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray was among the few who was confident of a fourth successive victory in the Mumbai civic polls. While the Sena's tally reduced by nine, unexpectedly its chief ally, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), fared better. Having lost badly in the 2009 Lok Sabha and assembly elections, the Sena was determined not to give up power in its last bastion. Its extensive cadres, women candidates and the appeal of Bal Thackeray delivered the goods once again. Yet the results must worry the Sena. Its main rival, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), managed to win 28 seats in Mumbai, some in key Sena strongholds. The Sena's tally of 75 is lower than the last few elections and it has lost ground steadily over the years. The BJP is concerned about this not only in Mumbai but in other parts of the State, in Pune and Nashik too, where the MNS has made substantial inroads with a total of 112 seats in 10 corporations, roughly half that of the Sena. The saffron combine's task was made easier by the disarray in the Congress party in the city. Its alliance with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) to unite the “secular vote” did not help as the Samajwadi Party drew away a sizable section of Muslim voters. In addition, the Congress-NCP badly missed its long-time ally, Ramdas Athavale of the Republican Party of India (RPI), who sided with the saffron parties. The Congress cut a sorry figure in the city and the constant mudslinging with the NCP robbed both of any glory or dignity. The alliance was based on past calculations which did not work.
The MNS not only cut into Sena votes but also that of the Congress and the NCP. Raj Thackeray had two road shows and one public meeting. He did not promise much and in lieu of a manifesto, there was an advertisement a day before the polls. The anti- North Indian rhetoric was not much in evidence from either Uddhav or Raj. While the race for supremacy between the Thackeray cousins is here to stay, what does a fourth term for the Shiv Sena hold for Mumbaikars? After 16 years of Sena rule, the city resembles the worst type of urban sprawl with pathetic living conditions. A glossy booklet of claims notwithstanding, can the saffron combine do something to uplift the life of people or will it be another saga of corruption and potholes? Mumbai needs planning, organisation and governance, not dug up roads, overflowing garbage and chaos. The Sena must seek pride in the running of a streamlined city and not just in the beautiful swimming pools or parks that it has built. The task before the corporation is enormous but not impossible. As one of the richest corporations in India, it has the funds. What it has lacked, alas, is the will.