The BJP feels its frequent political skirmishes with alliance partner Shiv Sena will get worse ahead of elections to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) in 2017. This, especially after BJP president Amit Shah sent a clear message to the rank and file to leave no stone unturned to win the BMC, which has been under Sena rule for three terms in a row.
In response, Sena president Uddhav Thackeray warned at a party meeting in Nashik, “Not to take Sena for granted in Maharashtra.” But the BJP is confident the battle for political oneupmanship will not rock the Devendra Fadnavis government’s boat in Maharashtra as it believes the Sena stands to gain nothing by withdrawing support to the government before or after the civic elections.
“We must make a distinction between electoral strategy and participation in government” — this was the overriding sentiment when The Indian Express spoke to a host of Sena ministers and officials.
“Our decision to join the BJP was to lend stability to the government, thereby ensuring good governance in Maharashtra. It is a mutual give and take,” a senior Sena minister said.
“When it comes to politics, we will fight the BJP tooth and nail. But in the government, we have to work unitedly,” he said.
The BMC, which is the country’s richest municipal corporation with a budget of Rs 35,000 crore, has remained a Sena citadel. But now, the BJP, which beat the Sena in the Assembly elections across Maharashtra and Mumbai, has emerged as a challenger to the Sena. The BJP won 15 MLAs compared to Sena’s 14 in Mumbai, which has a total strength of 36 MLAs. Now, 227 wards in the BMC are going to see a big battle between the Sena and BJP.
On Sunday, the Sena president at a party function gave a clarion call to workers to prepare for the elections.
Fadnavis said, “The BJP and Shiv Sena share an excellent relationship in the government. In the Cabinet, all major policy decisions are taken through consensus.” The CM was confident his government would last its full term.
BJP political managers also cite the Kalyan-Dombivali model where the Sena and the BJP fought bitterly during the elections but again joined hands to stake power in the Kalyan Dombivali Municipal Corporation (KDMC). They believe the Sena and the BJP are increasingly adopting this poll strategy in all the local bodies’ elections.