The upcoming elections to Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) will be a trial of survival for the ruling Shiv Sena while ally BJP, which is now the dominant partner in Maharashtra, is seeing the electoral battle to take control of Asia’s richest civic body to create space for itself in the city’s political landscape. Political observers say the election will primarily be a Shiv Sena versus BJP battle. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis will take a decision on the alliance with Shiv Sena, which on its side, has maintained that it will only forge an alliance if their is a “honourable pact” coming their way.
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However, given the frosty relations between the ruling partners, the two are yet to come on a meeting ground for discussions on a possible alliance. A BJP leader said the party has invited district unit presidents to submit a list of probable candidates for the civil polls. Only those candidates who get the highest ratings in an internal survey will get party tickets.
On the preparatory side, BJP, which emerged as the ‘big brother’ after the 2014 assembly polls, has already put in place its organisational structure up to booth levels in all the wards. Grassroot workers are of the view that BJP should go alone and the party expects to win more than 80 seats or emerge as the single largest party in the 227-member House.
Workers are of the view that the party made good gains in 2014 winning 15 MLAs and 2 MPs but the need of the hour is to consolidate on these gains. “Time is ripe. If not now, then BJP will never be able to expand in Mumbai,” a leader said. “As per the assembly election results of 2014, BJP was ahead in over 144 wards,” the BJP leader added.
BJP which has been in power with the Shiv Sena in the civic body for over two decades now, does not want to share the anti-incumbency factor and is keen to unseat the Sena by highlighting alleged corruption there. Currently BJP has 33 corporators while ruling Sena has 75 members. The Congress and NCP stand at 52 and 13 each while the MNS has 28 members in the municipal body.
“Sena and BJP contesting separately will leave the Congress with no space in the election discourse. Congress, which is already a faction ridden unit will raise national issues and target Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This will work in BJP’s favour as supporters of Modi will consolidate and stand firm with the party,” a BJP leader said.
Raj Thackeray’s MNS is not considered a electoral factor now, while MIM which won a seat in the assembly elections will look to take a sizeable chunk of Muslim votes, political observers said. With NCP already announcing their list of 45 candidates, chances of a Congress-NCP alliance appear bleak. Congress has got nearly 1,400 applications from aspiring candidates and the party has begun the process of selection and scrutinising candidates.
While city unit chief Sanjay Nirupam maintained that Congress will go alone in the elections, State Congress chief Ashok Chavan said an alliance will take place only if the local unit wishes. “NCP was our ally. Now it is just an ad hoc arrangement,” he said.