Dealing a huge blow to the aspirations of the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) combine, the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance on Friday looked set to retain its hold on the high-profile Mumbai municipal corporation.
Though it fell short of the majority in the 227-member corporation, the Sena-BJP combine pulled in 105 seats to the 66 won by the Congress-NCP alliance.
Raj Thackeray's Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), which was expected to play a major role in the elections, managed 28 seats (21 more than last time) but could not prevent the Sena-BJP from forging ahead.
The results in the nine other municipal corporations in Maharashtra too came as a disappointment to the Congress-NCP combine. The only municipality where the Congress did well was in Solapur, where it got 45 seats, up from 40 it won the last time.
The credit for the Sena-BJP win in Mumbai should ideally go to the bickering NCP and Congress leaders, who fought a pitched battle for tickets before the elections. Infighting within the Congress also witnessed 40 candidates joining the rebel ranks. This reflected in the results. While the Congress won 71 seats in 2007, this time it got only 53.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan surprisingly blamed the Samajwadi Party (SP) for the Congress' defeat in Mumbai.
"The role played by the SP was a huge setback in our efforts to stop the division of secular votes," Chavan claimed on a day when the SP did not even open its account. His state cabinet colleague, heavy industries minister Narayan Rane, was more forthcoming, as he blamed the infighting within the party for the poor show.
The Congress, however, rejected suggestions that Chavan should quit in the wake of the party's debacle in Mumbai but there are hints that Kripashankar Singh, the party's Maharashtra unit chief, could be in for trouble.
The Sena, despite looking set to retain its hold over Mumbai, has also lost ground, winning 76 seats to the 84 it won the last time. But Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray isn't complaining. Refusing to speak about his rival and estranged cousin Raj, Uddhav said: "I am happy today, let me celebrate. I don't want to get into any criticism. It was not an easy victory."
Cousin Raj was quite downcast despite his party winning 28 seats. "In every election we learn a lot. I am happy with the results, (but) we need to see where we lost and need to study the results. We will work towards correcting our mistakes," Raj said.
There was some good news for Raj though, with the MNS emerging the single largest party in Nashik, winning 40 of the 119 seats declared so far.
In Pune too the MNS did well as it captured 28 seats, the same as Congress. The NCP emerged as the single largest party here. The MNS can prove a factor here, as Ajit Pawar-led NCP is averse to any tie up with the Suresh Kalmadi-controlled Congress in Pune.
The Sena-BJP came back to power in Thane, beating the Congress-NCP combine. In Nagpur too The saffron parties are set to return to power with the BJP emerging as the single largest party.