The tussle over the inclusion of BJP leader Bhalchandra Shirsat in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s Standing Committee stems from the BJP’s desire to corner and pressure its erstwhile ally, the Shiv Sena, which controls the BMC.
Shirsat has been a two-time BJP corporator who is well-known for his understanding of the functioning and dynamics of the corporation. While he lost the 2016 civic polls, the BJP decided to bring him into the BMC by replacing nominated corporator, Ganesh Khankar, with Shirsat in March this year. The move was seen as an attempt to bear pressure on the Shiv Sena in the BMC by deploying an experienced hand to guide the party.
Shirsat was first elected as corporator in the BMC in 2002 when Sena was the alliance partner. Shirsat was group leader between 2007 and 2009 and chairman of the Improvements Committee in 2005 and 2011. In addition to portraying an aggressive role in the civic body, he has also been appointed by the party as an observer and has been tasked to guide and improve BJP corporators’ performance.
“Since the alliance broke, both Sena and BJP have been locked in a tussle in the civic body. Allowing Shirsat as a Standing Committee member is an ego issue for both,” said a senior corporator.
Denying the position of the Opposition leader in 2016, BJP had called itself the ‘watchdog’ of the corporation. Following the MVA government in the state, the party now wants to create leadership to take on the Sena-Congress alliance in the BMC, as well. It was with this intention that the BJP wanted Shirsat in the Standing Committee.
“While he cannot vote on any proposals in the Standing Committee, at least he can put forth the party’s stand aggressively before the Sena-led panel. Question and counter Sena on varied proposals,” said a party functionary.
The Sena has 12 members in the committee, the BJP has 10 while the rest are from the Congress (three), NCP and Samajwadi Party (one each). Shiv Sena, joining hands with the Congress and NCP can comfortably sanction proposals, in the committee.
Standing Committee is one of the important statutory bodies with 27 members, which discusses and approves key financial proposals.
With the relationship between the Sena and the BJP strained, the former is in no mood to allow the BJP an upper hand and has been contesting it at every possible juncture. It was with this intention that Shirsat was disqualified from the Standing Committee by the chairman and Shiv Sena leader Yashwant Jadhav on October 21. While he subsequently moved the court and got an interim stay on the order, the Sena is in no mood to make Shirsat’s entry into the committee as a cakewalk. While the Standing Committee was supposed to meet on Monday the Sena ensured that the meeting got postponed to Thursday as the High Court is expected to hear the matter on Tuesday.
Shirsat said, “This was expected from them (Shiv Sena). They disqualified me, which is not per the law. They had to do something to save face.”
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