It has been a week since the Mumbai civic body elected its mayor and deputy mayor, but there is still no clarity on the appointment of leader of the Opposition in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).
Even though the Congress has declared Ravi Raja as its nominee for the post, the ruling Shiv Sena is yet to take a call on whether the BJP — the second largest party in the BMC — is to be formally called an ally.
Stating that the BJP and the Sena needed to define their roles, Mumbai Congress president Sanjay Nirupam said the general body of the BMC should not be made to function without an Opposition leader. “The BJP cannot play dual roles of supporting the ruling party as well as pretending to be the Opposition. Democracy has to be upheld. By giving its votes to the Sena candidate for the post of mayor, they have obviously sided with the ruling party, which makes Congress the largest Opposition party. We will decide on our further course of action after the next general body meeting on March 17,” he said.
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Terming the delay as deliberate, Congress group leader in the BMC Ravi Raja claimed that the BJP was behind the delay. “On the day the new mayor was elected on March 8, I had submitted a letter to him stating that since the BJP had supported the Sena, the ruling party, in the mayoral elections, it was the Congress that was now the principal Opposition party. I had also sought that the mayor consider me as the Congress nominee for the Opposition leader’s position. But I am yet to receive a response on the same,” Raja said.
While Mayor Vishwanath Mahadeshwar said a decision was yet to be taken, a senior Sena leader said the issue had not been discussed within the party. “Even though the chief minister has withdrawn the BJP’s claim to the position, there is no official communication from the BJP about the same. Moreover, BJP voting for our mayoral candidate does not necessarily mean they are with us in power,” he said.
Referring to the law, a Sena leader said, “The provisions in the BMC Act are ambiguous and the mayor may seek a legal opinion on the matter for clarity. Technically, the second largest party, which is the BJP, is entitled to nominate its member for the post of opposition leader. However, with Congress staking its claim, we need to consider all the legal aspects.”
The Sena member added that the discussions of the party leadership was likely to happen before the next general body meeting on March 17. Anil Parab, legislator and senior Sena leader, said the party would soon take a decision in the matter.
Apart from all the major committees, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had earlier withdrawn BJP’s claims from the post of Opposition leader too, which subsequently led to the confusion. According to the Bombay Municipal Corporation Act 1888, leader of the opposition has to be from a party which has “great numerical strength and is recognised as such by the mayor”. However, referring to this scenario, civic officials pointed out that there was no provision in the Act which could allow the party finishing third in the polls to get a pick on the post. The official pointed out that the Act did not mention a time limit for the appointment, and the Opposition leader was not mandatory for the functioning of any of the BMC committees.