EVEN AS Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray announced last Sunday that he would not play the opposition continuously, while being a partner in the state government, tussles between Shiv Sena and BJP have picked up pace over the last few weeks in the BMC. Earlier this week, when residents of plush Malabar Hill approached senior officials again over their opposition to a proposal to turn Siri Walkway into a motorable road, they found support from unexpected quarters — local Sena vibhag pramukh Pandurang Sakpal, who immediately said the Sena-controlled municipal body was giving in to a demand by local BJP legislator Mangal Prabhat Lodha by proposing to cut 72 trees in order to widen the road.
This came hot on the heels of the Sena’s stiff opposition to the Smart Cities Mission, especially the formation of a SPV to execute the Smart City plans. Giving a conditional approval to the proposal in the general body meeting of the BMC’s elected corporators earlier this month, the Sena had made it clear that they would support the project only if the SPV is headed by the mayor of Mumbai. Defending the Sena’s stand, Sena corporator Vishwasrao told The Indian Express, “We never opposed the Smart Cities plan. But how can the Central government rule our city? Many aspects of the plan such as 24-hour water supply are already being implemented by the BMC.”
Another Shiv Sena corporator, Kishori Pednekar, said the BJP was merely trying to sway people with ‘high-profile ideas’. “The BJP only comes up with ideas like the Smart City that will only benefit affluent people. They don’t stop to consider the needs of the common man,” she said. Requesting anonymity, another Sena corporator charged BMC with following orders only from the chief minister.
The two coalition partners also squabbled recently over the suspension of BMC’s education officer Shambavi Jogi, a move proposed by BJP. The Sena defended Jogi, after which the High Court ordered a stay in the matter. BJP members, however, stated that Sena has made it a point to criticise any initiative taken up by their party. A BJP corporator pleading anonymity, said, “The Sena does not like to be in secondary position since they have had a habit to lead. They oppose almost every proposal, causing delays in policymaking.”