After days of speculations and backdoor negotiations, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis made a surprising announcement on Saturday. The chief minister said that the BJP will not be fielding any candidates for the post of mayor, deputy mayor or standing chairman in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).
Shiv Sena won 84 seats in the 21 February election to the 227-member BMC, the country's richest civic body. BJP was close behind, winning 82 seats, while Congress was a distant third with 31 seats. The two major parties had failed to achieve the majority of 114 seats, which led to a deadlock over election of Mumbai mayor.
Fadnavis also said that his party will not be in the Opposition, but will be supporting the ruling party (Shiv Sena) and will be committed to their poll promise of maintaining transparent governance in the BMC, for which the Maharashtra government will appoint a deputy Lokayukta. Also, a three-member coordination committee will be set up which will submit its report in three months on how to bring transparency in the BMC, he said.
Fadnavis further assured that his party's vote will go to Shiv Sena's mayoral candidate. Brushing aside any signs of trouble, he said that his government is stable. "We don't want to be the remote control of anyone, we want to handover the remote control to the Mumbaikars," he said.
By allowing the Shiv Sena to hold the post of the mayor with outside support from the BJP, the chief minister delivered a masterstroke ahead of the state Budget which commences next week. This move will ensure that his government in the state is safe as the support of the Uddhav Thackeray-led party is critical for its survival.
Despite being allies for over two decades in the Mumbai civic body and in the state and at the Centre, relations between the two parties were severely strained ahead of the municipal polls.
The alliance in the civic body had crumbled with Shiv Sena ministers in the state government announcing ahead of the municipal polls that they have their resignation letters in their pockets and only waiting for a nod from Thackeray to submit them.
The Shiv Sena supremo not too long ago had said that the Fadnavis government was in a "notice period" and speculations were rife that the party would have pulled out of the government had they got absolute majority in the recently concluded BMC polls.
Exhibiting his political acumen, Fadnavis in a calculated decision made it clear that the BJP won't contest for the post of mayor, deputy mayor and would not seek any membership in the four crucial committees — standing, education, BEST and improvement — thereby, leaving the entire accountability with the Shiv Sena.
With this deft move, Fadnavis has put the Shiv Sena in pretty much the same situation as the latter sought to put the BJP in the state government. The chief minister also ensured that the Shiv Sena won't have an easy run in the next run in the Mumbai civic body by appointing a deputy Lokayukta who will keep a daily tab on the transparent functioning of the BMC.
The three-member committee comprising of three former IAS officers — Ramanath Jha, Gautam Chatterjee and Sharad Kale — will recommend ways for the BMC to function in a transparent manner.
By choosing not to sit in the Opposition and by opting out of a direct participation in the corporation, Fadnavis paved the way for the BJP to keep a check on the Shiv Sena in the next five years. Although the chief minister nicely disguised his step as the party's respect for the public mandate and its zeal towards the development of Mumbai, for those politically alert, it was a clear underlying message to the Shiv Sena to refrain from its ballistic behaviour.
Although BJP national president Amit Shah wanted the BJP to seek the mayor's post in the BMC under any circumstance, it was his tête-à-tête with Prime Minister Narendra Modi that resulted in giving the Shiv Sena the top executive post in the country's richest civic body.
Caught unaware by this political dexterity of the chief minister, the Shiv Sena now stands checkmated charting its course in the new term while the BJP added a few more points to its clean image along with the chief minister's.
The next mayor of Mumbai will be elected during the first meeting of the new House on 8 March and 4 March is the last date for filing nominations for the post, and the election will be held four days later.
Updated Date: Mar 04, 2017 20:54 PM